Destruction of molecular gas reservoirs in early-type galaxies by active galactic nucleus feedback

Kevin Schawinski, Chris J. Lintott, Daniel Thomas, Sugata Kaviraj, Serena Viti, Joseph Silk, Claudia Maraston, Marc Sarzi, Sukyoung K. Yi, Seok Joo Joo, Emanuele Daddi, Estelle Bayet, Tom Bell, Joe Zuntz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

67 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Residual star formation at late times in early-type galaxies and their progenitors must be suppressed in order to explain the population of red, passively evolving systems we see today. Likewise, residual or newly accreted reservoirs of molecular gas that are fueling star formation must be destroyed. This suppression of star formation in early-type galaxies is now commonly attributed to active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback wherein the reservoir of gas is heated and expelled during a phase of accretion onto the central supermassive black hole. However, direct observational evidence for a link between the destruction of this molecular gas and an AGN phase has been missing so far. We present new mm-wavelength observations from the IRAM 30 m telescope of a sample of low-redshift SDSS early-type galaxies currently undergoing this process of quenching of late-time star formation. Our observations show that the disappearance of the molecular gas coincides within less than 100 Myr with the onset of accretion onto the black hole and is too rapid to be due to star formation alone. Since our sample galaxies are not associated to powerful quasar activity or radio jets, we conclude that low-luminosity AGN episodes are sufficient to suppress residual star formation in early-type galaxies. This "suppression mode" of AGN feedback is very different from the "truncation mode" linked to powerful quasar activity during early phases of galaxy formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1672-1680
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume690
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan 1

Fingerprint

molecular gases
active galactic nuclei
destruction
star formation
galaxies
gas
accretion
quasars
retarding
refueling
galactic evolution
radio
wavelength
gas reservoir
quenching
luminosity
telescopes
approximation
gases
wavelengths

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Schawinski, K., Lintott, C. J., Thomas, D., Kaviraj, S., Viti, S., Silk, J., ... Zuntz, J. (2009). Destruction of molecular gas reservoirs in early-type galaxies by active galactic nucleus feedback. Astrophysical Journal, 690(2), 1672-1680. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/690/2/1672
Schawinski, Kevin ; Lintott, Chris J. ; Thomas, Daniel ; Kaviraj, Sugata ; Viti, Serena ; Silk, Joseph ; Maraston, Claudia ; Sarzi, Marc ; Yi, Sukyoung K. ; Joo, Seok Joo ; Daddi, Emanuele ; Bayet, Estelle ; Bell, Tom ; Zuntz, Joe. / Destruction of molecular gas reservoirs in early-type galaxies by active galactic nucleus feedback. In: Astrophysical Journal. 2009 ; Vol. 690, No. 2. pp. 1672-1680.
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Schawinski, K, Lintott, CJ, Thomas, D, Kaviraj, S, Viti, S, Silk, J, Maraston, C, Sarzi, M, Yi, SK, Joo, SJ, Daddi, E, Bayet, E, Bell, T & Zuntz, J 2009, 'Destruction of molecular gas reservoirs in early-type galaxies by active galactic nucleus feedback', Astrophysical Journal, vol. 690, no. 2, pp. 1672-1680. https://doi.org/10.1088/0004-637X/690/2/1672

Destruction of molecular gas reservoirs in early-type galaxies by active galactic nucleus feedback. / Schawinski, Kevin; Lintott, Chris J.; Thomas, Daniel; Kaviraj, Sugata; Viti, Serena; Silk, Joseph; Maraston, Claudia; Sarzi, Marc; Yi, Sukyoung K.; Joo, Seok Joo; Daddi, Emanuele; Bayet, Estelle; Bell, Tom; Zuntz, Joe.

In: Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 690, No. 2, 01.01.2009, p. 1672-1680.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Schawinski, Kevin

AU - Lintott, Chris J.

AU - Thomas, Daniel

AU - Kaviraj, Sugata

AU - Viti, Serena

AU - Silk, Joseph

AU - Maraston, Claudia

AU - Sarzi, Marc

AU - Yi, Sukyoung K.

AU - Joo, Seok Joo

AU - Daddi, Emanuele

AU - Bayet, Estelle

AU - Bell, Tom

AU - Zuntz, Joe

PY - 2009/1/1

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N2 - Residual star formation at late times in early-type galaxies and their progenitors must be suppressed in order to explain the population of red, passively evolving systems we see today. Likewise, residual or newly accreted reservoirs of molecular gas that are fueling star formation must be destroyed. This suppression of star formation in early-type galaxies is now commonly attributed to active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback wherein the reservoir of gas is heated and expelled during a phase of accretion onto the central supermassive black hole. However, direct observational evidence for a link between the destruction of this molecular gas and an AGN phase has been missing so far. We present new mm-wavelength observations from the IRAM 30 m telescope of a sample of low-redshift SDSS early-type galaxies currently undergoing this process of quenching of late-time star formation. Our observations show that the disappearance of the molecular gas coincides within less than 100 Myr with the onset of accretion onto the black hole and is too rapid to be due to star formation alone. Since our sample galaxies are not associated to powerful quasar activity or radio jets, we conclude that low-luminosity AGN episodes are sufficient to suppress residual star formation in early-type galaxies. This "suppression mode" of AGN feedback is very different from the "truncation mode" linked to powerful quasar activity during early phases of galaxy formation.

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