AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 116. Galaxies - Activating
Poster, Thursday, January 9, 2003, 9:20am-4:00pm, Exhibit Hall AB

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[116.17] An Infrared Spectral Picture of Mergers

B. Rothberg, R. D. Joseph (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii)

Mergers play a fundamental role in galaxy evolution at all redshifts. In 1977, Toomre suggested that spiral-spiral mergers could produce a significant fraction of the observed elliptical galaxies in the local universe. A critical component necessary for mergers to make ellipticals is that they must undergo star-formation. Infrared spectroscopy is an excellent tool for identifying and deriving the parameters for star-formation and the underlying stellar population. We have obtained medium resolution infrared spectra for 17 of the mergers in our sample using SPEX on the NASA IRTF. We have identified the presence of starbursts as well as placed constraints on their age and the upper and lower mass cutoffs of their IMF. The presence of a starburst appears to be correlated with our detection of a steep K band luminosity profile in the nuclei of many of our mergers. Thus the infrared spectra appear to confirm that the observed ``excess light'' is due to a burst of star-formation initiated by the dissipative collapse of gas during the merging process.

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