CO J = 1-0 spectroscopy of four submillimeter galaxies with the zpectrometer on the green bank telescope

A. I. Harris, Andrew Baker, S. G. Zonak, C. E. Sharon, R. Genzel, K. Rauch, G. Watts, R. Creager

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70 Scopus citations


We report detections of three z ∼ 2.5 submillimeter-selected galaxies (SMGs; SMM J14011+0252, SMM J14009+0252, SMM J04431+0210) in the lowest rotational transition of the carbon monoxide molecule (CO J = 1-0) and one nondetection (SMM J04433+0210). For the three galaxies we detected, we find a line-integrated brightness temperature ratio of the J = 3-2 and 1-0 lines of 0.68 ± 0.08; the 1-0 line is stronger than predicted by the frequent assumption of equal brightnesses in the two lines and by most single-component models. The observed ratio suggests that mass estimates for SMGs based on J = 3-2 observations and J = 1-0 column density or mass conversion factors are low by a factor of 1.5. Comparison of the 1-0 line intensities with intensities of higher-J transitions indicates that single-component models for the interstellar media in SMGs are incomplete. The small dispersion in the ratio, along with published detections of CO lines with Jupper > 3 in most of the sources, indicates that the emission is from multi-component interstellar media with physical structures common to many classes of galaxies. This result tends to rule out the lowest scaling factors between CO luminosity and molecular gas mass, and further increases molecular mass estimates calibrated against observations of galaxies in the local universe. We also describe and demonstrate a statistically sound method for finding weak lines in broadband spectra that will find application in searches for molecular lines from sources at unknown redshifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1149
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: ISM
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Methods: statistical
  • Techniques: spectroscopic

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