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Astron. Astrophys. 362, 42-52 (2000)

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Complex molecular gas structure in the Medusa merger

S. Aalto 1 and S. Hüttemeister 2

1 Onsala Rymdobservatorium, 43992 Onsala, Sweden
2 Radioastronomisches Institut der Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany

Received 23 December 1999 / Accepted 3 August 2000


High resolution OVRO aperture synthesis maps of the 12CO 1-0 emission in the "Medusa" galaxy merger (NGC 4194) reveal the molecular emission being surprisingly extended. The 12CO emission is distributed on a total scale of 25" (4.7 kpc) - despite the apparent advanced stage of the merger. The complex, striking 12CO morphology occupies mainly the center and the north-eastern part of the main optical body. The extended 12CO flux is tracing two prominent dust lanes: one which is crossing the central region at right angle (with respect to the optical major axis) and a second which curves to the north-east and then into the beginning of the northern tidal tail.

The bulk of the 12CO emission (67%) can be found in a complex starburst region encompassing the central 2 kpc. The molecular gas is distributed in five major emission regions of typical size 300 pc. About 15% of the total 12CO flux is found in a bright region [FORMULA] south of the radio continuum nucleus. We suggest that this region together with the kpc sized central starburst is being fueled by gas flows along the central dust lane. We discuss the merger history of NGC 4194 and suggest that it may be the result of a early-type/spiral merger with a shell emerging to the south of the center.

The total molecular mass in the system is estimated to be at most [FORMULA] [FORMULA], depending on which 12CO - H2 conversion factor is applicable. The high 12CO/13CO 1-0 intensity ratio, [FORMULA], indicates highly excited physical conditions in the interstellar medium showing that the starburst has a big impact on its surrounding ISM. At the current rate of star formation, the gas will be consumed within 40 million years.

Key words: galaxies: evolution – galaxies: individual: NGC 4194 – galaxies: ISM – galaxies: starburst – radio lines: galaxies – radio lines: ISM

Send offprint requests to: S. Aalto (susanne@oso.chalmers.se)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: October 30, 19100