skip to main content

Title: THE [O III] NEBULA OF THE MERGER REMNANT NGC 7252: A LIKELY FAINT IONIZATION ECHO

We present images and spectra of a {approx}10 kpc-sized emission-line nebulosity discovered in the prototypical merger remnant NGC 7252 and dubbed the ''[O III] nebula'' because of its dominant [O III] {lambda}5007 line. This nebula seems to yield the first sign of episodic active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity still occurring in the remnant, {approx}220 Myr after the coalescence of two gas-rich galaxies. Its location and kinematics suggest it belongs to a stream of tidal-tail gas falling back into the remnant. Its integrated [O III] {lambda}5007 luminosity is 1.4 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 40} erg s{sup -1}, and its spectrum features some high-excitation lines, including He II {lambda}4686. In diagnostic line-ratio diagrams, the nebula lies in the domain of Seyfert galaxies, suggesting that it is photoionized by a source with a power-law spectrum. Yet, a search for AGN activity in NGC 7252 from X-rays to radio wavelengths yields no detection, with the most stringent upper limit set by X-ray observations. The upper luminosity limit of L{sub 2-10{sub keV,0}}<5 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 39} erg s{sup -1} estimated for the nucleus is {approx}10{sup 3} times lower than the minimum ionizing luminosity of {approx}> 5 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 42} erg s{sup -1} necessary to excite the nebula. Thismore » large discrepancy suggests that the nebula is a faint ionization echo excited by a mildly active nucleus that has declined by {approx}3 orders of magnitude over the past 20,000-200,000 yr. In many ways this nebula resembles the prototypical ''Hanny's Voorwerp'' near IC 2497, but its size is 3 Multiplication-Sign smaller and its [O III] luminosity {approx}100 Multiplication-Sign lower. We propose that it be classified as an extended emission-line region (EELR). The [O III] nebula is then the lowest-luminosity ionization echo and EELR discovered so far, indicative of recent, probably sputtering AGN activity of Seyfert-like intensity in NGC 7252.« less
Authors:
; ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Carnegie Observatories, 813 Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, CA 91101 (United States)
  2. Department of Astronomy, University of Michigan, 818 Dennison Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109 (United States)
  3. Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ 85721 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22130969
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 773; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; COALESCENCE; COSMIC NUCLEI; DIAGRAMS; EMISSION; EXCITATION; IMAGES; LUMINOSITY; NEBULAE; PHOTOIONIZATION; SEYFERT GALAXIES; SPECTRA; SPUTTERING; X RADIATION