Merger dynamics and stellar populations in the host galaxies of the quasi-stellar objects I Zw 1 and 3C 48


The thesis focuses on two case studies of the host galaxies of the quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) I Zw 1 and 3C 48. The studies are motivated by the hypothesis that ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) might represent the early stage of QSO evolution (Sanders et al. 1988). According to this hypothesis, galaxy mergers and interactions trigger gas inflow which is followed by starburst activity and by the formation of an active nucleus. As likely transitionary objects between the ultra-luminous infrared stage and the QSO stage, I Zw 1 and 3C 48 are promising candidates to investigate the active nucleus, the starburst, and the merger properties as the essential links between all stages of the proposed evolutionary sequence. The case study of I Zw 1 has an observational focus and is based on near-infrared (NIR) imaging and spectroscopy, carried out with ISAAC (Infrared Spectrometer and Array Camera) at the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Cerro Paranal in Chile. The two-armed spiral host galaxy of I Zw 1 shows two bright knots in the north and in the west of the optical disk region, respectively. Here, the new ISAAC spectra indicate that the northern object is a projected foreground star, as previously assumed but recently challenged. In the surroundings of the western source, the ISAAC J-band image displays tidal features. This gives further support for the scenario that I Zw 1 is presently in a minor merger process with this source. The new spectra and the NIR colors of the western source indicate an old stellar population. The host of I Zw 1 is analyzed in a one-dimensional structural decomposition into bulge, disk, and halo components, which results in mean J-band mass-to-light ratios ...
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