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Published January 2013 | Published
Journal Article Open

Extending the Nearby Galaxy Heritage with WISE: First Results from the WISE Enhanced Resolution Galaxy Atlas


The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mapped the entire sky at mid-infrared wavelengths 3.4 μm, 4.6 μm, 12 μm, and 22 μm. The mission was primarily designed to extract point sources, leaving resolved and extended sources, for the most part, unexplored. Accordingly, we have begun a dedicated WISE Enhanced Resolution Galaxy Atlas (WERGA) project to fully characterize large, nearby galaxies and produce a legacy image atlas and source catalog. Here we demonstrate the first results of the WERGA project for a sample of 17 galaxies, chosen to be of large angular size, diverse morphology, and covering a range in color, stellar mass, and star formation. It includes many well-studied galaxies, such as M 51, M 81, M 87, M 83, M 101, and IC 342. Photometry and surface brightness decomposition is carried out after special super-resolution processing, achieving spatial resolutions similar to that of Spitzer Infrared Array Camera. The enhanced resolution method is summarized in the first paper of this two-part series. In this second work, we present WISE, Spitzer, and Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) photometric and characterization measurements for the sample galaxies, combining the measurements to study the global properties. We derive star formation rates using the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon sensitive 12 μm (W3) fluxes, warm-dust sensitive 22 μm (W4) fluxes, and young massive-star sensitive ultraviolet (UV) fluxes. Stellar masses are estimated using the 3.4 μm (W1) and 4.6 μm (W2) measurements that trace the dominant stellar mass content. We highlight and showcase the detailed results of M 83, comparing the WISE/Spitzer results with the Australia Telescope Compact Array H I gas distribution and GALEX UV emission, tracing the evolution from gas to stars. In addition to the enhanced images, WISE's all-sky coverage provides a tremendous advantage over Spitzer for building a complete nearby galaxy catalog, tracing both stellar mass and star formation histories. We discuss the construction of a complete mid-infrared catalog of galaxies and its complementary role of studying the assembly and evolution of galaxies in the local universe.

Additional Information

© 2013 American Astronomical Society. Received 2012 March 26; accepted 2012 September 30; published 2012 November 30. We thank G. Meurer, S. Lord, J. Mazzarella, and B. Madore for tapping their vast knowledge base of nearby galaxies. Discussions with S. Meidt and N. Taylor were very helpful in understanding the (ongoing) difficulties with M/L modeling. This work is based (in part) on observations made with the Spitzer and research using the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED) and IPAC Infrared Science Archive, all of which are operated by JPL, Caltech under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Support for this work was provided by NASA through an award issued by JPL/Caltech. R.J.A.was supported by an appointment to the NASA Postdoctoral Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, administered by Oak Ridge Associated Universities through a contract with NASA. M.E.C. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (FS110200023). This publication makes use of data products from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is a joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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