Year of Publication

2003

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Thomas H. Troland

Abstract

It has become clear in recent years that the study of interacting/merging galaxies plays an important role in understanding important astrophysical phenomena. This thesis presents an observational study of interacting/merging galaxies at radio frequencies. The observations have been carried out at extremely high resolution using very long baseline interferometry. The observations described here include: (1) A study of the high velocity Hi absorption associated with the peculiar galaxy NGC 1275; (2) A study of the radio continuum and Hi absorption of the ULIRG IRAS 172080014; (3) A study of the radio continuum and Hi absorption of the LIRG NGC 7674. Some of the most prominent results of these observations include: Detection of several narrow Hi absorption features in the high velocity system associated with NGC 1275. These Hi absorption lines were observed toward the strong radio nucleus 3C 84. The results indicate the existence of several Hi clouds with velocity differences and widths similar to those seen in Galactic neutral hydrogen absorption and similar to some of the Hi absorption seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The discovery of an extreme nuclear starburst region in the advanced merger system IRAS 172080014. Our results suggest a star formation rate of 84 M yr-1, and a supernova rate of 4 yr-1. Hi absorption is detected in multiple components with optical depths ranging between 0.3 and 2.5, and velocity widths between 58 and 232 km s-1. The detection of complex jet structures in the inner 1 kpc region of the galaxy NGC 7674. At full resolution, several compact sources are observed with brightness temperatures on the order of 107 K. While it is possible that one of these compact structures could host an AGN, they could also be shock-like features formed by the interaction of the jet with compact interstellar clouds in the nuclear region of this galaxy. At least eight Hi absorption lines are detected toward some of the continuum emission regions in NGC 7674. If the widest Hi feature in our observations is rotationally broadened by a central supermassive black hole, the implied dynamical mass is about 107 M.

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