G. Petitpas

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (79)326.88 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Studying molecular gas properties in merging galaxies gives us important clues to the onset and evolution of interaction-triggered starbursts. NGC4194 is particularly interesting to study since its FIR-to-CO luminosity ratio rivals that of ULIRGs,despite its lower luminosity compared to ULIRGs, which indicates a high star formation efficiency that is relative to even most spirals and ULIRGs.We study the molecular medium at an angular resolution of 0.65"x .52" through our observations of CO2-1 emission using the SMA. We compare our CO2-1 maps with optical HST and high angular resolution radio continuum images to study the relationship between molecular gas and other components of the starburst region. The molecular gas is tracing the complicated dust lane structure of NGC4194 with the brightest emission being located in an off-nuclear ring-like structure with ~320pc radius, the Eye of the Medusa. The bulk CO emission of the ring is found south of the kinematical center of NGC4194. The northern tip of the ring is associated with the galaxy nucleus, where the radio continuum has its peak. A prominent, secondary emission maximum in the radio continuum is located inside the molecular ring. This suggests that the morphology of the ring is partially influenced by massive supernova explosions. From the combined evidence, we propose that the Eye of the Medusa contains a shell of swept up material where we identify a number of giant molecular associations. We propose that the Eye may be the site of an efficient starburst of 5-7M_sun/yr, but it would still constitute only a fraction of the 30-50M_sun/yr SFR of NGC4194. Furthermore, we find that ~50% of the molecular mass of NGC4194 is found in extended filamentary-like structures tracing the minor and major axis dust lanes. We suggest that molecular gas is transported along these lanes providing the central starburst region with fuel.
    07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: At low redshift, a handful of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) have been discovered with peak luminosities ($L_{\rm iso} < 10^{48.5}~\rm{erg\,s}^{-1}$) substantially lower than the average of the more distant ones ($L_{\rm iso} > 10^{49.5}~\rm{erg\,s}^{-1}$). The properties of several low-luminosity (low-$L$) GRBs indicate that they can be due to shock break-out, as opposed to the emission from ultrarelativistic jets. Owing to this, it is highly debated how both populations are connected, and whether there is a continuum between them. The burst at redshift $z=0.283$ from 2012 April 22 is one of the very few examples of intermediate-$L$ GRBs with a $\gamma$-ray luminosity of $L\sim10^{48.9}~\rm{erg\,s}^{-1}$ that have been detected up to now. Together with the robust detection of its accompanying supernova SN 2012bz, it has the potential to answer important questions on the origin of low- and high-$L$ GRBs and the GRB-SN connection. We carried out a spectroscopy campaign using medium- and low-resolution spectrographs at 6--10-m class telescopes, covering the time span of 37.3 days, and a multi-wavelength imaging campaign from radio to X-ray energies over a duration of $\sim270$ days. Furthermore, we used a tuneable filter centred at H$\alpha$ to map star formation in the host galaxy and the surrounding galaxies. We used these data to extract and model the properties of different radiation components and incorporate spectral-energy-distribution fitting techniques to extract the properties of the host galaxy. Modelling the light curve and spectral energy distribution from the radio to the X-rays revealed the blast-wave to expand with an initial Lorentz factor of $\Gamma_0\sim60$, low for a high-$L$ GRB, and that the afterglow had an exceptional low peak luminosity-density of $\lesssim2\times10^{30}~\rm{erg\,s}^{-1}\,\rm{Hz}^{-1}$ in the sub-mm. [Abridged]
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a method for selecting $z>4$ dusty, star forming galaxies (DSFGs) using Herschel/SPIRE 250/350/500 $\mu m$ flux densities to search for red sources. We apply this method to 21 deg$^2$ of data from the HerMES survey to produce a catalog of 38 high-$z$ candidates. Follow-up of the first 5 of these sources confirms that this method is efficient at selecting high-$z$ DSFGs, with 4/5 at $z=4.3$ to $6.3$ (and the remaining source at $z=3.4$), and that they are some of the most luminous dusty sources known. Comparison with previous DSFG samples, mostly selected at longer wavelengths (e.g., 850 $\mu m$) and in single-band surveys, shows that our method is much more efficient at selecting high-$z$ DSFGs, in the sense that a much larger fraction are at $z>3$. Correcting for the selection completeness and purity, we find that the number of bright ($S_{500\,\mu m} \ge 30$ mJy), red Herschel sources is $3.3 \pm 0.8$ deg$^{-2}$. This is much higher than the number predicted by current models, suggesting that the DSFG population extends to higher redshifts than previously believed. If the shape of the luminosity function for high-$z$ DSFGs is similar to that at $z\sim2$, rest-frame UV based studies may be missing a significant component of the star formation density at $z=4$ to $6$, even after correction for extinction.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a ˜1″ (100 pc) resolution CO(3–2) map of the Antennae galaxies obtained with the Submillimeter Array. We find that only < 30% of the GMAs spatially coincides with the optically detected star clusters, suggesting that the bulk of the CO (3–2) emission traces the regions with very recent or near future star formation activity. A high CO (3–2)/(1–0) ratio is seen in both nuclei and the southern complexes in the overlap region. Higher radiation field associated with intense star formation can account for the nucleus of NGC 4038 and the overlap region, but the nuclear region of NGC 4039 show relatively little star formation or AGN activities and cannot easily explained. We show kinematical evidence that the high line ratio in NGC 4039 is possibly caused by gas inflow into the counter-rotating central disk.
    10/2013;
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    ABSTRACT: We present high-resolution (~2.5") observations of 12CO J=6-5 towards the luminous infrared galaxy VV 114 using the Submillimeter Array. We detect 12CO J=6-5 emission from the eastern nucleus of VV 114 but do not detect the western nucleus or the central region. We combine the new 12CO J=6-5 observations with previously published or archival low-J CO observations, that include 13CO J=1-0 Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array cycle 0 observations, to analyze the beam-averaged physical conditions of the molecular gas in the eastern nucleus. We use the radiative transfer code RADEX and a Bayesian likelihood code to constrain the temperature (T_kin), density (n(H2)) and column density (N(12CO)) of the molecular gas. We find that the most probable scenario for the eastern nucleus is a cold (T_kin = 38 K), moderately dense (n(H2) = 10^2.89 cm^-3) molecular gas component. We find the most probable 12CO to 13CO abundance ratio ([12CO]/[13CO]) is 229, roughly three times higher than the Milky Way value. This high abundance ratio may explain the observed high 12CO/ 13CO line ratio (> 25). The unusual 13CO J=2-1/J=1-0 line ratio of 0.6 is produced by a combination of moderate 13CO optical depths (tau = 0.4 - 1.1) and extremely subthermal excitation temperatures. We measure the CO-to-H2 conversion factor, alpha_co to be 0.5 M_sol (K km s^-1 pc^2)^-1, which agrees with the widely used factor for ultra luminous infrared galaxies of Downes & Solomon (1998; alpha_co =0.8 M_sol (K km s^-1 pc^2)^-1).
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2013; 777(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions that we can witness in the Universe. Studying the most extreme cases of these phenomena allows us to constrain the limits for the progenitor models. In this Letter, we study the prompt emission, afterglow, and host galaxy of GRB 120624B, one of the brightest GRBs detected by Fermi, to derive the energetics of the event and characterise the host galaxy in which it was produced. Following the high-energy detection we conducted a multi-wavelength follow-up campaign, including near-infrared imaging from HAWKI/VLT, optical from OSIRIS/GTC, X-ray observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and at sub-millimetre/millimetre wavelengths from SMA. Optical/nIR spectroscopy was performed with X-shooter/VLT. We detect the X-ray and nIR afterglow of the burst and determine a redshift of z = 2.1974 +/- 0.0002 through the identification of emission lines of [OII], [OIII] and H-alpha from the host galaxy of the GRB. This implies an energy release of Eiso = (3.0+/-0.2)x10^54 erg, amongst the most luminous ever detected. The observations of the afterglow indicate high obscuration with AV > 1.5. The host galaxy is compact, with R1/2 < 1.6 kpc, but luminous, at L ~ 1.5 L* and has a star formation rate of 91 +/- 6 Msol/yr as derived from H-alpha. As other highly obscured GRBs, GRB 120624B is hosted by a luminous galaxy, which we also proof to be compact, with a very intense star formation. It is one of the most luminous host galaxies associated with a GRB, showing that the host galaxies of long GRBs are not always blue dwarf galaxies, as previously thought.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 09/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Massive present-day early-type (elliptical and lenticular) galaxies probably gained the bulk of their stellar mass and heavy elements through intense, dust-enshrouded starbursts-that is, increased rates of star formation-in the most massive dark-matter haloes at early epochs. However, it remains unknown how soon after the Big Bang massive starburst progenitors exist. The measured redshift (z) distribution of dusty, massive starbursts has long been suspected to be biased low in z owing to selection effects, as confirmed by recent findings of systems with redshifts as high as ∼5 (refs 2-4). Here we report the identification of a massive starburst galaxy at z = 6.34 through a submillimetre colour-selection technique. We unambiguously determined the redshift from a suite of molecular and atomic fine-structure cooling lines. These measurements reveal a hundred billion solar masses of highly excited, chemically evolved interstellar medium in this galaxy, which constitutes at least 40 per cent of the baryonic mass. A 'maximum starburst' converts the gas into stars at a rate more than 2,000 times that of the Milky Way, a rate among the highest observed at any epoch. Despite the overall downturn in cosmic star formation towards the highest redshifts, it seems that environments mature enough to form the most massive, intense starbursts existed at least as early as 880 million years after the Big Bang.
    Nature 04/2013; 496(7445):329-333. · 38.60 Impact Factor
  • GRB Coordinates Network. 01/2013;
  • Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 08/2012; 424:3050-3080. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Nearby Galaxies Legacy Survey (NGLS) comprises an HI-selected sample of 155 galaxies spanning all morphological types with distances less than 25 Mpc. We describe the scientific goals of the survey, the sample selection, and the observing strategy. We also present an atlas and analysis of the CO J=3-2 maps for the 47 galaxies in the NGLS which are also part of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey. We find a wide range of molecular gas mass fractions in the galaxies in this sample and explore the correlation of the far-infrared luminosity, which traces star formation, with the CO luminosity, which traces the molecular gas mass. By comparing the NGLS data with merging galaxies at low and high redshift which have also been observed in the CO J=3-2 line, we show that the correlation of far-infrared and CO luminosity shows a significant trend with luminosity. This trend is consistent with a molecular gas depletion time which is more than an order of magnitude faster in the merger galaxies than in nearby normal galaxies. We also find a strong correlation of the L(FIR)/L(CO3-2) ratio with the atomic to molecular gas mass ratio. This correlation suggests that some of the far-infrared emission originates from dust associated with atomic gas and that its contribution is particularly important in galaxies where most of the gas is in the atomic phase.
    06/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: We have constructed a five station 12 GHz atmospheric phase interferometer (API) for the Submillimeter Array (SMA) located near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Operating at the base of unoccupied SMA antenna pads, each station employs a commercial low noise mixing block coupled to a 0.7 m off-axis satellite dish which receives a broadband, white noise-like signal from a geostationary satellite. The signals are processed by an analog correlator to produce the phase delays between all pairs of stations with projected baselines ranging from 33 to 261 m. Each baseline's amplitude and phase is measured continuously at a rate of 8 kHz, processed, averaged and output at 10 Hz. Further signal processing and data reduction is accomplished with a Linux computer, including the removal of the diurnal motion of the target satellite. The placement of the stations below ground level with an environmental shield combined with the use of low temperature coefficient, buried fiber optic cables provides excellent system stability. The sensitivity in terms of rms path length is 1.3 microns which corresponds to phase deviations of about 1 degree of phase at the highest operating frequency of the SMA. The two primary data products are: (1) standard deviations of observed phase over various time scales, and (2) phase structure functions. These real-time statistical data measured by the API in the direction of the satellite provide an estimate of the phase front distortion experienced by the concurrent SMA astronomical observations. The API data also play an important role, along with the local opacity measurements and weather predictions, in helping to plan the scheduling of science observations on the telescope.
    Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation. 05/2012; 1(1).
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    ABSTRACT: We have used high resolution (~2.3") observations of the local (D = 46 Mpc) luminous infrared galaxy Arp 299 to map out the physical properties of the molecular gas which provides the fuel for its extreme star formation activity. The 12CO J=3-2, 12CO J=2-1 and 13CO J=2-1 lines were observed with the Submillimeter Array and the short spacings of the 12CO J=2-1 and J=3-2 observations have been recovered using James Clerk Maxwell Telescope single dish observations. We use the radiative transfer code RADEX to estimate the physical properties (density, column density and temperature) of the different regions in this system. The RADEX solutions of the two galaxy nuclei, IC 694 and NGC 3690, are consistent with a wide range of gas components, from warm moderately dense gas with T_{kin} > 30 K and n(H_{2}) ~ 0.3 - 3 x 10^{3} cm^{-3} to cold dense gas with T_{kin} ~ 10-30 K and n(H_{2}) > 3 x 10^{3} cm^{-3}. The overlap region is shown to have a better constrained solution with T_{\rm{kin}}$ ~ 10-50 K and n(H_{2}) ~ 1-30 x 10^{3} cm^{-3}. We estimate the gas masses and star formation rates of each region in order to derive molecular gas depletion times. The depletion times of all regions (20-60 Myr) are found to be about 2 orders of magnitude lower than those of normal spiral galaxies. This rapid depletion time can probably be explained by a high fraction of dense gas on kiloparsec scales in Arp 299. We estimate the CO-to-H_{2} factor, \alpha_{co} to be 0.4 \pm 0.3 (3 x 10^{-4}/ x_{CO}) M_{sol} (K km s^{-1} pc^{2})^{-1} for the overlap region. This value agrees well with values determined previously for more advanced merger systems.
    The Astrophysical Journal 04/2012; 753(1). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Context. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) generate an afterglow emission that can be detected from radio to X-rays during days, or even weeks after the initial explosion. The peak of this emission crosses the millimeter and submillimeter range during the first hours to days, making their study in this range crucial for constraining the models. Observations have been limited until now due to the low sensitivity of the observatories in this range. This situation will be greatly improved with the start of scientific operations of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Aims: In this work we do a statistical analysis of the complete sample of mm/submm observations of GRB afterglows obtained before the beginning of scientific operations at ALMA. Methods: We present observations of 11 GRB afterglows obtained from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) and the SubMillimeter Array (SMA), as well as the first detection of a GRB with ALMA, still in the commissioning phase, and put them into context with a catalogue of all the observations that have been published until now in the spectral range that is covered by ALMA. Results: The catalogue of mm/submm observations collected here is the largest to date and is composed of 102 GRBs, of which 88 have afterglow observations, whereas the rest are host galaxy searches. With our programmes, we contributed with data of 11 GRBs and the discovery of 2 submm counterparts. In total, the full sample, including data from the literature, has 22 afterglow detections with redshifts ranging from 0.168 to 8.2. GRBs have been detected in mm/submm wavelengths with peak luminosities spanning 2.5 orders of magnitude, the most luminous reaching 1033erg s-1Hz-1. We observe a correlation between the X-ray brightness at 0.5 days and the mm/submm peak brightness. Finally we give a rough estimate of the distribution of peak flux densities of GRB afterglows, based on the current mm/submm sample. Conclusions: Observations in the mm/submm bands have been shown to be crucial for our understanding of the physics of GRBs, but have until now been limited by the sensitivity of the observatories. With the start of the operations at ALMA, the sensitivity has improved by more than an order of magnitude, opening a new era in the study of GRB afterglows and their host galaxies. Our estimates predict that, once completed, ALMA will detect up to ~98% of the afterglows if observed during the passage of the peak synchrotron emission.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 02/2012; 538:44D. · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • GRB Coordinates Network. 01/2012;
  • GRB Coordinates Network. 01/2012;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a ~1'' (100 pc) resolution 12CO (3-2) map of the nearby intermediate-stage interacting galaxy pair NGC 4038/9 (the Antennae galaxies) obtained with the Submillimeter Array. We find that half the CO (3-2) emission originates in the overlap region where most of the tidally induced star formation had been previously found in shorter wavelength images, with the rest being centered on each of the nuclei. The gross distribution is consistent with lower resolution single-dish images, but we show for the first time the detailed distribution of the warm and dense molecular gas across this galaxy pair at resolutions comparable to the size of a typical giant molecular complex. While we find that 58% (33/57) of the spatially resolved Giant Molecular Associations (a few × 100 pc) are located in the overlap region, only ≤30% spatially coincides with the optically detected star clusters, suggesting that the bulk of the CO (3-2) emission traces the regions with very recent or near future star formation activity. The spatial distribution of the CO (3-2)/CO (1-0) integrated brightness temperature ratios mainly ranges between 0.3 and 0.6, which suggests that on average the CO (3-2) line in the Antennae is not completely thermalized and similar to the average values of nearby spirals. A higher ratio is seen in both nuclei and the southern complexes in the overlap region. A higher radiation field associated with intense star formation can account for the nucleus of NGC 4038 and the overlap region, but the nuclear region of NGC 4039 shows relatively little star formation or active galactic nucleus activity and cannot be easily explained. We show kinematical evidence that the high line ratio in NGC 4039 is possibly caused by gas inflow into the counter-rotating central disk.
    The Astrophysical Journal 12/2011; 745(1):65. · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: NGC 6240 is a late-stage advance merger harboring two AGNs that have yet to coalesce, but its central dense molecular gas precedes its stellar component counterparts (˜ 1″, or 500pc, apart) in gravitating towards the dynamical center of the system. This is one of the nearest examples of extreme star formation as a result of galaxy-galaxy interaction; its proximity allows for a detailed examination of the underlying physics and lends to it being a particularly interesting case study. Building on previous submillimeter work, we present high-resolution (˜ 0.4″) maps of the CO(3-2) gas taken at the Submillimter Array. At this resolution, we resolve asymmetric gas flux peaks lying inward of the two AGNs; we find the distribution and kinematics of the molecular gas are consistent with models that suggest a turbulent nature. A general velocity gradient along the axis in between the two nuclei is noted along with local disturbances. A simple geometry-based scenario is proposed to explain the observed gas dynamics based on hydrodynamic galaxy-merger simulation models, the continual development of which will shed light on the physics behind gas behavior at these small scales.
    10/2011;
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    ABSTRACT: Active galactic nuclei, which are powered by long-term accretion onto central supermassive black holes, produce relativistic jets with lifetimes of at least one million years, and the observation of the birth of such a jet is therefore unlikely. Transient accretion onto a supermassive black hole, for example through the tidal disruption of a stray star, thus offers a rare opportunity to study the birth of a relativistic jet. On 25 March 2011, an unusual transient source (Swift J164449.3+573451) was found, potentially representing such an accretion event. Here we report observations spanning centimetre to millimetre wavelengths and covering the first month of evolution of a luminous radio transient associated with Swift J164449.3+573451. The radio transient coincides with the nucleus of an inactive galaxy. We conclude that we are seeing a newly formed relativistic outflow, launched by transient accretion onto a million-solar-mass black hole. A relativistic outflow is not predicted in this situation, but we show that the tidal disruption of a star naturally explains the observed high-energy properties and radio luminosity and the inferred rate of such events. The weaker beaming in the radio-frequency spectrum relative to γ-rays or X-rays suggests that radio searches may uncover similar events out to redshifts of z ≈ 6.
    Nature 08/2011; 476(7361):425-8. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery and detailed monitoring of X-ray emission associated with the Type IIb SN 2011dh using data from the Swift and Chandra satellites, placing it among the best studied X-ray supernovae to date. We further present millimeter and radio data obtained with the SMA, CARMA, and EVLA during the first three weeks after explosion. Combining these observations with early optical photometry, we show that the panchromatic dataset is well-described by non-thermal synchrotron emission (radio/mm) with inverse Compton scattering (X-ray) of a thermal population of optical photons. In this scenario, the shock partition fractions deviate from equipartition by a factor, (e_e/e_B) ~ 30. We derive the properties of the shockwave and the circumstellar environment and find a shock velocity, v~0.1c, and a progenitor mass loss rate of ~6e-5 M_sun/yr. These properties are consistent with the sub-class of Type IIb SNe characterized by compact progenitors (Type cIIb) and dissimilar from those with extended progenitors (Type eIIb). Furthermore, we consider the early optical emission in the context of a cooling envelope model to estimate a progenitor radius of ~1e+11 cm, in line with the expectations for a Type cIIb SN. Together, these diagnostics are difficult to reconcile with the extended radius of the putative yellow supergiant progenitor star identified in archival HST observations, unless the stellar density profile is unusual. Finally, we searched for the high energy shock breakout pulse using X-ray and gamma-ray observations obtained during the purported explosion date range. Based on the compact radius of the progenitor, we estimate that the breakout pulse was detectable with current instruments but likely missed due to their limited temporal/spatial coverage. [Abridged]
    The Astrophysical Journal 07/2011; 752(2). · 6.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present high angular resolution (05-20) observations of the millimeter continuum and the 12CO(J = 3-2), 13CO(J = 3-2), 13CO(J = 2-1), C18O(J = 2-1), HCN(J = 3-2), HCO+(J = 4-3), and HCO+(J = 3-2) line emission in the circumnuclear disk (r 100 pc) of the prototypical Seyfert 2 galaxy NGC 1068, carried out with the Submillimeter Array. We also include in our analysis new 13CO(J = 1-0) and improved 12CO(J = 2-1) observations of NGC 1068 at high angular resolution (10-20) and sensitivity, conducted with the Institute de Radioastronomie Millimetrique Plateau de Bure Interferometer. Based on the complex dynamics of the molecular gas emission indicating non-circular motions in the central ~100 pc, we propose a scenario in which part of the molecular gas in the circumnuclear disk of NGC 1068 is blown radially outward as a result of shocks. This shock scenario is further supported by quite warm (T kin ≥ 200 K) and dense (n(H2) 104 cm–3) gas constrained from observed molecular line ratios. The HCN abundance in the circumnuclear disk is found to be [HCN]/[12CO] 10–3.5. This is slightly higher than the abundances derived for Galactic and extragalactic star-forming/starbursting regions. This result lends further support to X-ray-enhanced HCN formation in the circumnuclear disk of NGC 1068 as suggested by earlier studies. The HCO+ abundance ([HCO+]/[12CO] 10–5) appears to be somewhat lower than that of Galactic and extragalactic star-forming/starbursting regions. When trying to fit the centimeter-to-millimeter continuum emission by different thermal and non-thermal processes, it appears that electron-scattered synchrotron emission yields the best results while thermal free-free emission seems to overpredict the millimeter continuum emission.
    The Astrophysical Journal 06/2011; 736(1):37. · 6.73 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

838 Citations
326.88 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2007–2012
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2011
    • Tokyo Institute of Technology
      • Department of Physics
      Edo, Tōkyō, Japan
  • 2009
    • National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
      • Astronomy Data Center
      Edo, Tōkyō, Japan
    • California Institute of Technology
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2004
    • Loyola University Maryland
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 2003
    • University of Maryland, College Park
      • Department of Astronomy
      Maryland, United States
  • 1997–2002
    • McMaster University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Hamilton, Ontario, Canada