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Session 21 - Luminous Infrared Galaxies.
Display session, Wednesday, January 07
We use imaging Fabry-Pérot observations to explore the dynamical conditions in four southern ultraluminous (L_IR > 10^12 L_sun) infrared galaxies. These galaxies all show morphological and kinematic features indicative of a major merger, but span a wide range of inferred dynamical ages: the youngest system is just past the first encounter, while the oldest has already merged into a single object. This diversity in dynamical states indicates that ultraluminous activity is not confined solely to late-stage mergers. The H\alpha emission is more spatially concentrated in the later stage mergers, in agreement with models which show that mergers drive gas inwards towards the nucleus, but high luminosities are achieved even in young interactions where the H\alpha is quite extended. Our data indicate that physical details other than the dynamical phase -- such as the internal structure or gas content of the galaxies -- can play a strong role in determining the luminosity evolution of merging galaxies. We also find evidence for massive star-forming complexes at large radius in the tidal debris, reaffirming the notion that some dwarf galaxies may be spawned during the merger of more massive disk galaxies.
Program listing for Wednesday