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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Professor Ian Smail

Menéndez-Delmestre, K., Blain, A.W., Swinbank, M., Smail, I., Ivison, R.J., Chapman, S.C. & Gonçalves, T.S. (2013). Mapping the clumpy structures within submillimeter galaxies using laser-guide star adaptive optics spectroscopy. The astrophysical journal 767(1): 151.

Author(s) from Durham


We present the first integral-field spectroscopic observations of high-redshift submillimeter-selected galaxies (SMGs) using Laser-Guide Star Adaptive Optics. We target Hα emission of three SMGs at redshifts z ~ 1.4-2.4 with the OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph on Keck. The spatially resolved spectroscopy of these galaxies reveals unresolved broad-Hα line regions (FWHM >1000 km s-1) likely associated with an active galactic nucleus (AGN) and regions of diffuse star formation traced by narrow-line Hα emission (FWHM lsim 500 km s-1) dominated by multiple Hα-bright stellar clumps, each contributing 1%-30% of the total clump-integrated Hα emission. We find that these SMGs host high star formation rate surface densities, similar to local extreme sources, such as circumnuclear starbursts and luminous infrared galaxies. However, in contrast to these local environments, SMGs appear to be undergoing such intense activity on significantly larger spatial scales as revealed by extended Hα emission over 4-16 kpc. Hα kinematics show no evidence of ordered global motion as would be found in a disk, but rather large velocity offsets (~few × 100 km s-1) between the distinct stellar clumps. Together with the asymmetric distribution of the stellar clumps around the AGN in these objects, it is unlikely that we are unveiling a clumpy disk structure as has been suggested in other high-redshift populations of star-forming galaxies. The SMG clumps in this sample may correspond to remnants of originally independent gas-rich systems that are in the process of merging, hence triggering the ultraluminous SMG phase.