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Cold gas and dust: Hunting spiral-like structures in early-type galaxies

Abstract : Context. Observations of neutral hydrogen (H I) and molecular gas show that 50% of all nearby early-type galaxies contain some cold gas. Molecular gas is always found in small gas discs in the central region of the galaxy, while neutral hydrogen is often distributed in a low-column density disc or ring typically extending well beyond the stellar body. Dust is frequently found in early-type galaxies as well. Aims. The goal of our study is to understand the link between dust and cold gas in nearby early-type galaxies as a function of H I content. Methods. We analyse deep optical g − r images obtained with the MegaCam camera at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope for a sample of 21 H I-rich and 41 H I-poor early-type galaxies. Results. We find that all H I-rich galaxies contain dust seen as absorption. Moreover, in 57 per cent of these H I-rich galaxies, the dust is distributed in a large-scale spiral pattern. Although the dust detection rate is relatively high in the H I-poor galaxies (∼59 per cent), most of these systems exhibit simpler dust morphologies without any evidence of spiral structures. We find that the H I-rich galaxies possess more complex dust morphology extending to almost two times larger radii than H I-poor objects. We measured the dust content of the galaxies from the optical colour excess and find that H I-rich galaxies contain six times more dust (in mass) than H I-poor ones. In order to maintain the dust structures in the galaxies, continuous gas accretion is needed, and the substantial H I gas reservoirs in the outer regions of early-type galaxies can satisfy this need for a long time. We find that there is a good correspondence between the observed masses of the gas and dust, and it is also clear that dust is present in regions further than 3 R eff. Conclusions. Our findings indicate an essential relation between the presence of cold gas and dust in early-type galaxies and offer a way to study the interstellar medium in more detail than what is possible with H I observations.
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Contributor : Pierre-Alain Duc Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, November 6, 2020 - 6:49:59 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 2:37:06 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, February 8, 2021 - 3:31:22 AM

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M. Yıldız, R. Peletier, Pierre-Alain Duc, P. Serra. Cold gas and dust: Hunting spiral-like structures in early-type galaxies. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2020, 636, pp.A8. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201935090⟩. ⟨hal-02993444⟩

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