Down but Not Out: Properties of the Molecular Gas in the Stripped Virgo Cluster Early-type Galaxy NGC 4526

Young L. M., Meier D. S., Crocker A., Davis T. A., Topal S.

ASTROPHYSICAL JOURNAL, vol.933, no.1, pp.90-109, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 933 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac7149
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Aerospace Database, INSPEC, zbMATH, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.90-109
  • Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Affiliated: Yes


We present Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array data on the 3 mm continuum emission, CO isotopologues (12CO, 13CO, and C18O), and high-density molecular tracers (HCN, HCO+, HNC, HNCO, CS, CN, and CH3OH) in NGC 4526. These data enable a detailed study of the physical properties of the molecular gas in a longtime resident of the Virgo Cluster; comparisons to more commonly studied spiral galaxies offer intriguing hints into the processing of molecular gas in the cluster environment. Many molecular line ratios in NGC 4526, along with our inferred abundances and CO/H2 conversion factors, are similar to those found in nearby spirals. One striking exception is the very low observed 12CO/13CO(1−0) line ratio, 3.4 ± 0.3, which is unusually low for spirals though not for Virgo Cluster early-type galaxies. We carry out radiative transfer modeling of the CO isotopologues with some archival (2−1) data, and we use Bayesian analysis with Markov Chain Monte Carlo techniques to infer the physical properties of the CO-emitting gas. We find surprisingly low [12CO/13CO] abundance ratios of ${7.8}_{-1.5}^{+2.7}$ and ${6.5}_{-1.3}^{+3.0}$ at radii of 0.4 kpc and 1 kpc. The emission from the high-density tracers HCN, HCO+, HNC, CS, and CN is also relatively bright, and CN is unusually optically thick in the inner parts of NGC 4526. These features hint that processing in the cluster environment may have removed much of the galaxy's relatively diffuse, optically thinner molecular gas along with its atomic gas. Angular momentum transfer to the surrounding intracluster medium may also have caused contraction of the disk, magnifying radial gradients such as we find in [13CO/C18O]. More detailed chemical evolution modeling would be interesting in order to explore whether the unusual [12CO/13CO] abundance ratio is entirely an environmental effect or whether it also reflects the relatively old stellar population in this early-type galaxy.