AAS 197, January 2001
Session 30. Dwarf and Elliptical Galaxies
Oral, Monday, January 8, 2001, 1:30-3:00pm, Royal Plam 5/6

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[30.05] POX 186: A Dwarf Galaxy Under Construction?

M.R. Corbin (Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona), W.D. Vacca (Institute for Astronomy, The University of Hawaii)

We have obtained deep images of the ultracompact (~ 3'') blue compact dwarf galaxy POX 186 in the F336W, F555W, and F814W filters of the Planetary Camera of the Hubble Space Telescope. We have additionally obtained a low-resolution near ultraviolet spectrum of the object with STIS and combine this with a ground-based spectrum covering the visible continuum and emission lines. Our images confirm this object to be highly compact, with a maximum projected size of only ~ 240 pc, making it one of the smallest galaxies known. We also confirm that the outer regions of the galaxy consist of an evolved stellar population, ruling out earlier speculations that POX 186 is a protogalaxy. However, the PC images reveal the galaxy to have a highly irregular morphology, with a pronounced tidal arm on its western side. This morphology is strongly suggestive of a recent collision between two smaller components which has in turn triggered the central starburst. The F336W image also shows that the material in this tidal stream is actively star forming. Given the very small (~ 100 pc) sizes of the colliding components, POX 186 may be a dwarf galaxy in the early stages of formation, which would be consistent with current ``downsizing'' models of galaxy formation in which the least massive objects are the last to form.

This work is supported by NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

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