Giant Molecular Clouds in the Early-type Galaxy NGC 4526

D. Utomo, L. Blitz, T. Davis, E. Rosolowsky, M. Bureau, M. Cappellari, M. Sarzi

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We present a high spatial resolution (≈20 pc) of 12CO(2 −1) observations of the lenticular galaxy NGC 4526. We
identify 103 resolved giant molecular clouds (GMCs) and measure their properties: size R, velocity dispersion σv,
and luminosity L. This is the first GMC catalog of an early-type galaxy. We find that the GMC population in NGC
4526 is gravitationally bound, with a virial parameter α ∼ 1. The mass distribution, dN/dM ∝ M−2.39 ± 0.03, is
steeper than that for GMCs in the inner Milky Way, but comparable to that found in some late-type galaxies. We
find no size–line width correlation for the NGC 4526 clouds, in contradiction to the expectation from Larson’s
relation. In general, the GMCs in NGC 4526 are more luminous, denser, and have a higher velocity dispersion than
equal-size GMCs in the Milky Way and other galaxies in the Local Group. These may be due to higher interstellar
radiation field than in the Milky Way disk and weaker external pressure than in the Galactic center. In addition, a
kinematic measurement of cloud rotation shows that the rotation is driven by the galactic shear. For the vast
majority of the clouds, the rotational energy is less than the turbulent and gravitational energy, while the four
innermost clouds are unbound and will likely be torn apart by the strong shear at the galactic center. We combine
our data with the archival data of other galaxies to show that the surface density Σ of GMCs is not approximately
constant, as previously believed, but varies by ∼3 orders of magnitude. We also show that the size and velocity
dispersion of the GMC population across galaxies are related to the surface density, as expected from the
gravitational and pressure equilibrium, i.e., σv R−1/2 ∝ Σ1/2.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD, galaxies: individual: NGC 4526, galaxies: ISM, ISM: clouds, radio lines: ISM


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