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A starburst origin of the OH-megamaser emission from the galaxy Arp220

Skinner, CJ; Smith, HA; Sturm, E; Barlow, MJ; Cohen, RJ; Stacey, GJ; (1997) A starburst origin of the OH-megamaser emission from the galaxy Arp220. Nature , 386 pp. 472-474. 10.1038/386472a0. Green open access

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Abstract

Ultraluminous infrared galaxies have been known for more than a decade, but the source of their very large far-infrared luminosities remains controversial. It may reflect a quasar-like active nucleus surrounded by a torus of dense gas and dust, the latter absorbing the energetic photons from the nuclear region and re-emitting at infrared wavelengths1, or a huge burst of massive-star formation in dense dusty clouds of molecular gas close to the nucleus2, which heats the surrounding dust. A number of ultraluminous galaxies are also a source of OH-megamaser emissions (intense laser-like spectral lines at microwave frequencies), an observation that may hold important clues as to the main power source in these galaxies. A general feature of many models3,4 is that the masers are pumped radiatively by the absorption of infrared photons. Identifying the source of the maser pump may therefore indicate whether the ultimate energy source is a burst of star formation, or an active nucleus. Here we report the detection of a strong mid-infrared OH absorption line in the prototypical megamaser and ultraluminous galaxy5, Arp220. We find that the power absorbed in this line alone is sufficient to pump the megamaser emission seen at radio wavelengths. Moreover, the warm, extended nature of the pumping region is suggestive of a starburst origin for the ultraluminous infrared emissions.

Type: Article
Title: A starburst origin of the OH-megamaser emission from the galaxy Arp220
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/386472a0
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/386472a0
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, IC-4553 ARP-220
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Physics and Astronomy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113221
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