Stellar and dust properties of local elliptical galaxies: clues to the onset of nuclear activity
Department of Astronomy, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, PR China e-mail: email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.org
2 The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, 813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, CA 91101, USA e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 4 June 2008
Aims. We study the stellar and dust properties of a well-defined sample of local elliptical galaxies to investigate the relationship between host galaxy properties and nuclear activity.
Methods. We have selected a complete sample of 45 ellipticals from the Palomar spectroscopic survey of nearby galaxies, which includes 20 low-luminosity active galactic nuclei classified as LINERs and 25 inactive galaxies. Using a stellar population synthesis method, we compared the derived stellar population properties of the LINER to the inactive subsamples. We also studied the dust and stellar surface brightness distributions of the central regions of these galaxies using high-resolution images obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Results. Compared with the inactive subsample, ellipticals hosting LINERs share similar total optical and near-infrared luminosity, central stellar velocity dispersions, and nuclear stellar populations as judged from their luminosity-weighted ages and metallicities. LINERs, on the other hand, have a larger fraction of core-type central surface brightness profiles and a much higher frequency of circumnuclear dust structures.
Conclusions. Our results support the suggestion that LINERs are powered by low-luminosity AGNs rather than by young or intermediate-age stars. Nuclear activity in nearby elliptical galaxies seems to occur primarily in those systems where enough cold interstellar material has managed to accumulate, perhaps via cooling condensations from hot gas.
Key words: galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD / galaxies: active / galaxies: stellar content
© ESO, 2008