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Published September 1, 2006 | Published
Journal Article Open

A Spitzer Space Telescope Infrared Spectrograph Survey of Warm Molecular Hydrogen in Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies


We have conducted a survey of ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) with the Infrared Spectrograph on the Spitzer Space Telescope, obtaining spectra from 5.0 to 38.5 μm for 77 sources with 0.02 < z < 0.93. Observations of the pure rotational H_2 lines S(3) 9.67 μm, S(2) 12.28 μm, and S(1) 17.04 μm are used to derive the temperature and mass of the warm molecular gas. We detect H2 in 77% of the sample, and all ULIRGs with F_(60 μm) > 2 Jy. The average warm molecular gas mass is ~2 × 10^8 M_☉. High extinction, inferred from the 9.7 μm silicate absorption depth, is not observed along the line of sight to the molecular gas. The derived H_2 mass does not depend on F_(25 μm)/F_(60 μm), which has been used to infer either starburst or AGN dominance. Similarly, the molecular mass does not scale with the 25 or 60 μm luminosities. In general, the H_2 emission is consistent with an origin in photodissociation regions associated with star formation. We detect the S(0) 28.22 μm emission line in a few ULIRGs. Including this line in the model fits tends to lower the temperature by ~50-100 K, resulting in a significant increase in the gas mass. The presence of a cooler component cannot be ruled out in the remainder of our sample, for which we do not detect the S(0) line. The measured S(7) 5.51 μm line fluxes in six ULIRGs implies ~3 × 10^6 M_☉ of hot (~1400 K) H_2. The warm gas mass is typically less than 1% of the cold gas mass derived from ^(12)CO observations.

Additional Information

© 2011 American Astronomical Society. Received 2006 March 10; accepted 2006 May 10. Based on observations obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The IRS was a collaborative venture between Cornell University and Ball Aerospace Corporation funded by NASA through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Ames Research Center. This work is based (in part) on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under NASA contract 1407. Support for this work was provided by NASA through contract 1257184 issued by JPL/Caltech. We wish to thank Paul Goldsmith, David Hollenbach, Alberto Noriego-Crespo, and Terry Herter for useful discussions concerning the excitation of molecular hydrogen, Bill Reach for the zodiacal light model, and James Houck for making the IRS possible.

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