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Published May 1987 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

Ultraluminous infrared galaxies


The IRAS survey of the local universe (z≾0.1) has revealed the existence of a class of ultraluminous infrared galaxies with L(8-1000μm) > 10^(12)L⊙ that are slightly more numerous, and as luminous as optically selected quasars at similar redshift. Optical CCD images of these infrared galaxies show that nearly all are advanced mergers. Millimeter-wave CO (1 → 0) observations indicate that these interacting systems are extremely rich in molecular gas with total H_2 masses 1-3 x 10^(10) M⊙. Nearly all of the ultraluminous infrared galaxies show some evidence in their optical spectra for nonthermal nuclear activity. It is proposed that their infrared luminosity is powered by an embedded active nucleus and a nuclear starburst both of which are fueled by the tremendous reservoir of molecular gas. Once these merger nuclei shed their obscuring dust, allowing the AGN to visually dominate the decaying starburst, they become the optically selected quasars.

Additional Information

This research was funded partially by NASA under the IRAS extended mission program and partially by the NSF.

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Published - 1987NASCP2466__411S.pdf


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