A mapping survey of the 13CO and 12CO emission in galaxies

Timothy A.D. Paglione, W. F. Wall, Judith S. Young, Mark H. Heyer, Michael Richard, Michael Goldstein, Zeke Kaufman, Julie Nantais, Gretchen Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


We present spectra of the extended 12CO and 13CO J = 1 → 0 emission along the major axes of 17 nearby galaxies. Spatial variations in the ratio of CO and 13CO integrated intensities, ℛ, are found in nearly every galaxy observed. There is an overall variation in ℛ of 20%-40% from the inner 2 kpc to the disk. Roughly one-third of the survey galaxies have such gradients in ℛ detected above the 2 σ confidence level. Though some galaxies show a lower central value of ℛ, on average ℛ inside 2 kpc is 10%-30% higher than ℛ outside of 2 kpc. The average CO/13CO intensity ratio within the central 2 kpc of the survey sources is 11.6 ± 0.4 (based on the noise) ± 1.5 (based on systematic uncertainties estimated from daily variations in CO and 13CO intensities). The 1 σ dispersion in ℛ between galactic nuclei of 4.2 is also quite large. The average value of ℛ outside 2 kpc is 9.8 ± 0.6 ± 1.2 with a standard deviation of 4.5. An increase in the CO/13CO intensity ratio from disk to nucleus may imply that the conversion factor between CO intensity and H2 column density, X, is lower in galactic nuclei. In addition, variations in physical conditions, most notably the gas kinetic temperature, affect both ℛ and X. Abundance variations probably do not cause the gradient in ℛ, though we do not rule out a decrease in effective cloud column densities in galactic nuclei possibly caused by destructive starburst superwinds. A modest rise in temperature (less than a factor of 2 or 3) from outside a 2 kpc radius toward the nucleus can easily account for the observed gradient. These results support previous work implying that X is lower in the center of the Milky Way and probably most galactic nuclei. Therefore, calculating H2 masses using the standard Galactic X-factor, especially within the central few kiloparsecs of galaxies, overestimates the true mass by factors of a few. The standard X-factor still appears to be appropriate for galactic disks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-200
Number of pages18
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2001


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • ISM: clouds
  • ISM: molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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