Physical conditions and chemistry of molecular gas in galactic centers
Conference contribution, 2014
Studying the molecular phase of the interstellar medium in galaxy nuclei is fundamental for the understanding of the onset and evolution of star formation and the growth of supermassive black holes. We can use molecules as observational tools exploiting them as tracers of chemical, physical and dynamical conditions. The molecular physical conditions in galaxy centers show large variety among galaxies, but in general the average gas densities (traced by e.g.HCN) and temperatures (probed by e.g. H2CO, NH3) are greater than in their disks. Molecular gas and dust is being funneled to the centers of galaxies by spiral arms, bars, and interactions - and one example of this is the minor merger NGC1614. Gas surface densities are also greater
in galaxy nuclei and in extreme cases they become orders of magnitudes larger than what we find in the center of our own Milky Way. We can use IR excited molecular emission to probe the very inner regions of galaxies with deeply obscured nuclei where N(H2)>10^24 cm-2 -for example in the luminous infrared galaxy (LIRG) NGC4418. Abundances of key molecules such as HCN, HCO+, HNC, HC3N, CN, H3O+,are important tools in identifying the nature of buried activity and its evolution. Standard astrochemical scenarios (including X-ray Dominated regions (XDRs) and Photon Dominated Regions (PDRs)) are briefly discussed in this review and how we can use molecules to distinguish between them. High resolution studies are often necessary
to separate effects of excitation and radiative transfer from those of chemistry - one example is absorption and effects of stimulated emission in the ULIRG Arp220. The nuclear activity in luminous galaxies often drives outflows and winds and in some cases molecular gas is being entrained in the outflows. Sometimes the molecular gas is carrying the bulk of the momentum.
We can study the structure and physical conditions of the molecular gas to constrain the mass outflow rates and the evolution and nature of the driving source and two examples are discussed here: NGC1377 and Mrk231
galaxies: evolution — galaxies: ISM — galaxies:active — radio lines: ISM — ISM: molecules — ISM:abundances — astrochemistry