Nuclear properties of nearby spiral galaxies from nubble Space Telescope NICMOS imaging and STIS spectroscopy

M. A. Hughes, D. Axon, J. Atkinson, A. Alonso-Herrero, C. Scarlata, A. Marconi, D. Batcheldor, J. Binney, A. Capetti, C. M. Carollo, L. Dressel, J. Gerssen, D. Macchetto, W. Maciejewski, M. Merrifield, M. Ruiz, W. Sparks, M. Stiavelli, Z. Tsvetanov

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11 Scopus citations


We investigate the central regions of 23 spiral galaxies using Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) spectroscopy and archival Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) imaging. The sample is taken from our program to determine the masses of central massive black holes (MBHs) in 54 nearby spiral galaxies. Stars are likely to contribute significantly to any dynamical central mass concentration that we find in our MBH program, and this paper is part of a series to investigate the nuclear properties of these galaxies. We use the Nuker law to fit surface brightness profiles, derived from the NICMOS images, to look for nuclear star clusters and find possible extended sources in three of the 23 galaxies studied (13%). The fact that this fraction is lower than that inferred from optical Bubble Space Telescope studies is probably due to the greater spatial resolution of those studies. Using R - H and J - H colors and equivalent widths of Hα emission (from the STIS spectra), we investigate the nature of the stellar population with evolutionary models. Under the assumption of hot stars ionizing the gas, as opposed to a weak active galactic nucleus (AGN), we find that there are young stellar populations (∼ 10-20 Myr); however, these data do not allow us to determine what percentage of the total nuclear stellar population they form. In addition, in an attempt to find any unknown AGN, we use [N II] and [S II] line flux ratios (relative to Hα) and find tentative evidence for weak AGNs in NGC 1300 and NGC 4536.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-83
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Galaxies: stellar content


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