Evidence of boosted 13CO/12CO ratio in early-type galaxies in dense environments
Journal article, 2015
We present observations of 13CO(1-0) in 17 Combined Array for Research in Millimeter Astronomy ATLAS3D early-type galaxies (ETGs), obtained simultaneously with 12CO(1-0) observations. The 13CO in six ETGs is sufficiently bright to create images. In these six sources, we do not detect any significant radial gradient in the 13CO/12CO ratio between the nucleus and the outlying molecular gas. Using the 12CO channel maps as 3D masks to stack the 13CO emission, we are able to detect 15/17 galaxies to >3σ (and 12/17 to at least 5σ) significance in a spatially integrated manner. Overall, ETGs show a wide distribution of 13CO/12CO ratios, but Virgo cluster and group galaxies preferentially show a 13CO/12CO ratio about two times larger than field galaxies, although this could also be due to a mass dependence, or the CO spatial extent (RCO/Re). ETGs whose gas has a morphologically settled appearance also show boosted 13CO/12CO ratios. We hypothesize that this variation could be caused by (i) the extra enrichment of gas from molecular reprocessing occurring in low-mass stars (boosting the abundance of 13C to 12C in the absence of external gas accretion), (ii) much higher pressure being exerted on the mid-plane gas (by the intracluster medium) in the cluster environment than in isolated galaxies, or (iii) all but the densest molecular gas clumps being stripped as the galaxies fall into the cluster. Further observations of 13CO in dense environments, particularly of spirals, as well as studies of other isotopologues, should be able to distinguish between these hypotheses.
Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular
Galaxies: clusters: general