Chemistry in luminous AGN and starburst galaxies

  • Susanne Aalto
Conference paper


Molecular line emission is a useful tool for probing the highly obscured inner kpc of starburst galaxies and buried AGNs. Molecular line ratios serve as diagnostic tools of the physical conditions of the gas—but also of its chemical properties. Both provide important clues to the type and evolutionary stage of the nuclear activity. While CO emission remains the main tracer for molecular distribution and dynamics, molecules such as HCN, HNC, HCO+, CN and HC3N are useful for probing the properties of the denser (n≳104 cm−3), star-forming gas. Here I discuss current views on how line emission from these species can be interpreted in luminous galaxies. HNC, HCO+ and CN are all species that can be associated both with photon dominated regions (PDRs) in starbursts—as well as X-ray dominated regions (XDRs) associated with AGN activity. HC3N line emission may identify galaxies where the starburst is in the early stage of its evolution.


Galaxies: starburst Galaxies: active Radio lines: ISM ISM: molecules 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Radio Astronomy and Space Science, Onsala Space ObservatoryChalmers University of TechnologyOnsalaSweden

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