We present a study of the dynamical evolution of ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs), merging galaxies of infrared luminosity >1012 Lȯ. During our very large telescope large program, we have obtained ISAAC near-infrared, high-resolution spectra of 54 ULIRGs (at several merger phases) and 12 local Palomar-Green QSOs, to investigate whether ULIRGs go through a QSO phase during their evolution. One possible evolutionary scenario is that after nuclear coalescence, the black hole radiates close to Eddington to produce QSO luminosities. The mean stellar velocity dispersion that we measure from our spectra is similar (∼160 km/s) for 30 post-coalescence ULIRGs and 7 IR-bright QSOs. The black holes in both populations have masses of order 107-108 Mȯ (calculated from the relation to the host dispersion) and accrete at rates >0.5 Eddington. Placing ULIRGs and some IR-bright QSOs on the fundamental plane of early-type galaxies shows that they are located on a similar region (that of moderate-mass ellipticals), in contrast to giant ellipticals and radio-loud QSOs. While this preliminary comparison of the ULIRG and QSO host kinematical properties indicates that (some) ULIRGs may undergo a QSO phase in their evolutionary history before they settle down as ellipticals, further data on non-IR excess QSOs are necessary to test this scenario.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- Galaxies: formation
- Infrared: galaxies