Molecular gas and star formation in local early-type galaxies

M. Bureau*, T. A. Davis, K. Alatalo, A. F. Crocker, L. Blitz, L. M. Young, F. Combes, M. Bois, F. Bournaud, M. Cappellari, R. L. Davies, P. T. De Zeeuw, P. A. Duc, E. Emsellem, S. Khochfar, D. Krajnović, H. Kuntschner, P. Y. Lablanche, R. M. McDermid, R. MorgantiT. Naab, T. Oosterloo, M. Sarzi, N. Scott, P. Serra, A. Weijmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution


The molecular gas content of local early-type galaxies is constrained and discussed in relation to their evolution. First, as part of the ATLAS 3D survey, we present the first complete, large (260 objects), volume-limited single-dish survey of CO in normal local early-type galaxies. We find a surprisingly high detection rate of 22%, independent of luminosity and at best weakly dependent on environment. Second, the extent of the molecular gas is constrained with CO synthesis imaging, and a variety of morphologies is revealed. The kinematics of the molecular gas and stars are often misaligned, implying an external gas origin in over a third of the systems, although this behaviour is drastically diffferent between field and cluster environments. Third, many objects appear to be in the process of forming regular kpc-size decoupled disks, and a star formation sequence can be sketched by piecing together multi-wavelength information on the molecular gas, current star formation, and young stars. Last, early-type galaxies do not seem to systematically obey all our usual prejudices regarding star formation, following the standard Schmidt-Kennicutt law but not the far infrared-radio correlation. This may suggest a greater diversity in star formation processes than observed in disk galaxies. Using multiple molecular tracers, we are thus starting to probe the physical conditions of the cold gas in early-types.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTracing the Ancestry of Galaxies (on the Land of our Ancestors)
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 277th Symposium of the International Astronomial Union Held in Ouagaougou, Burkina Faso, December 13-17, 2010
EditorsClaude Carignan, Françoise Combes, Ken C. Freeman
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)9780521766029
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
ISSN (Print)1743-9213
ISSN (Electronic)1743-9221


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