Wednesday 9th May 2012

A survey of molecular gas in luminous sub-millimetre galaxies

arxiv: arXiv:1205.1511

M. S. Bothwell, Ian Smail, S. C. Chapman, R. Genzel, R. J. Ivison, L. J. Tacconi, S. Alaghband-Zadeh, F. Bertoldi, A. W. Blain, C. M. Casey, P. Cox, T. R. Greve, D. Lutz, R. Neri, A. Omont, A. M. Swinbank

We present the results from a survey for 12CO emission in 40 luminous sub-millimetre galaxies (SMGs), with 850um fluxes of S850 = 4 – 20 mJy, conducted with the Plateau de Bure Interferometer. We detect 12CO emission in 32 SMGs at z~1.2 – 4.1, including 16 SMGs not previously published. Using multiple 12CO line (J_up =2 – 7) observations, we derive a median spectral line energy distribution for luminous SMGs and use this to estimate a mean gas mass of (5.3 +/- 1.0) \times 10^10 Msun. We report the discovery of a fundamental relationship between 12CO FWHM and 12CO line luminosity in high-redshift starbursts, which we interpret as a natural consequence of the baryon-dominated dynamics within the regions probed by our observations. We use far-infrared luminosities to assess the star-formation efficiency in our SMGs, finding a steepening of the L’CO-LFIR relation as a function of increasing 12CO J_up transition. We derive dynamical masses and molecular gas masses, and use these to determine the redshift evolution of the gas content of SMGs, finding that they do not appear to be significantly more gas rich than less vigorously star-forming galaxies at high redshifts. Finally, we collate X-ray observations, and study the interdependence of gas and dynamical properties of SMGs with their AGN activity and supermassive black hole masses (MBH), finding that SMGs lie significantly below the local M_BH-sigma relation. We conclude that SMGs represent a class of massive, gas-rich ultraluminous galaxies with somewhat heterogeneous properties, ranging from starbursting disc-like systems with L~10^12 L_sun, to the most highly star-forming mergers in the Universe.

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