Journal or Book Title
The Astrophysical Journal Letters
We present the discovery of strong mid-infrared emission lines of molecular hydrogen of apparently high-velocity dispersion (~870 km s-1) originating from a group-wide shock wave in Stephan's Quintet. These Spitzer Space Telescope observations reveal emission lines of molecular hydrogen and little else. This is the first time an almost pure H2 line spectrum has been seen in an extragalactic object. Along with the absence of PAH-dust features and very low excitation ionized gas tracers, the spectra resemble shocked gas seen in Galactic supernova remnants, but on a vast scale. The molecular emission extends over 24 kpc along the X-ray-emitting shock front, but it has 10 times the surface luminosity as the soft X-rays and about one-third the surface luminosity of the IR continuum. We suggest that the powerful H2 emission is generated by the shock wave caused when a high-velocity intruder galaxy collides with filaments of gas in the galaxy group. Our observations suggest a close connection between galaxy-scale shock waves and strong broad H2 emission lines, like those seen in the spectra of ultraluminous infrared galaxies where high-speed collisions between galaxy disks are common.
Appleton, PN; Xu, KC; Reach, W; Dopita, MA; Gao, Y; Lu, N; Popescu, CC; Sulentic, JW; Tuffs, RJ; and Yun, Min, "Powerful High-Velocity Dispersion Molecular Hydrogen Associated with an Intergalactic Shock Wave in Stephan's Quintet" (2006). The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 1126.