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Astron. Astrophys. 326, 59-68

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Dense gas in nearby galaxies

X. H2CO and CH3OH: molecular abundances and physical conditions

S. Hüttemeister1,2, R. Mauersberger3,4, and C. Henkel3

1Radioastronomisches Institut der Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, D-53121 Bonn, Germany
2Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
3Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, D-53121 Bonn, Germany
4Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

Received 7 November 1996 / Accepted 24 April 1997


Multilevel observations of formaldehyde (H2CO) and methanol (CH3OH) toward the nearby spiral galaxies NGC 253, Maffei 2, IC342, M 82 and NGC 6946 are presented. H2CO was detected in all galaxies (tentatively in NGC 6946). CH3OH was detected in all objects with the notable exception of M 82.

H2CO line intensity ratios point out differences in gas density both between galaxies and within the central regions of individual objects. Model calculations show that the bulk of the gas emitting H2CO in NGC 253 is at a density of FORMULA cmFORMULA , while the H2CO lines in M 82 and IC 342 trace two different, spatially separated gas components with densities of FORMULA cmFORMULA and FORMULA cmFORMULA . The south-western molecular hotspot in M 82 and the center of IC 342 are the regions with the highest density.

Methanol is subthermally excited in all galaxies, with the lowest excitation temperatures found in IC 342. CH3OH abundance in NGC 253 and the non-starburst nuclei of IC 342 and Maffei 2 are comparable. A map of the FORMULA lines in NGC 253 shows that CH3OH traces clumpy structures better than other molecules requiring high gas density to be excited. CH3OH toward M 82 is at least an order of magnitude less abundant than in otherwise comparable galaxies. This confirms the existence of global chemical differences, and thus very large scale variations in the state of the molecular gas phase, even between galaxies commonly classified as starburst nuclei.

Key words: ISM: molecules - galaxies: ISM - galaxies: nuclei - galaxies: starburst - radio lines: galaxies

Send offprint requests to: S. Hüttemeister, RAIUB

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: September 9, 1997
Last change: April 20, 1998