The ATLAS(3D) project - IV. The molecular gas content of early-type galaxies

Lisa M. Young*, Martin Bureau, Timothy A. Davis, Francoise Combes, Richard M. Mcdermid, Katherine Alatalo, Leo Blitz, Maxime Bois, Frédéric Bournaud, Michele Cappellari, Roger L. Davies, P. T. de Zeeuw, Eric Emsellem, Sadegh Khochfar, Davor Krajnović, Harald Kuntschner, Pierre Yves Lablanche, Raffaella Morganti, Thorsten Naab, Tom OosterlooMarc Sarzi, Nicholas Scott, Paolo Serra, Anne Marie Weijmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

337 Citations (Scopus)


We have carried out a survey for CO J= 1-0 and J= 2-1 emission in the 260 early-type galaxies of the volume-limited ATLAS3D sample, with the goal of connecting their star formation and assembly histories to their cold gas content. This is the largest volume-limited CO survey of its kind and is the first to include many Virgo cluster members. Sample members are dynamically hot galaxies with a median stellar mass ∼3 × 1010 M; they are selected by their morphology rather than colour, and the bulk of them lie on the red sequence. The overall CO detection rate is 56/259 = 0.22 ± 0.03, with no dependence on the K luminosity and only a modest dependence on the dynamical mass. There are a dozen CO detections among the Virgo cluster members; statistical analysis of their H2 mass distributions and their dynamical status within the cluster shows that the cluster's influence on their molecular masses is subtle at best, even though (unlike spirals) they seem to be virialized within the cluster. We suggest that the cluster members have retained their molecular gas through several Gyr residences in the cluster. There are also a few extremely CO-rich early-type galaxies with H2 masses ≳109 M and these are in low-density environments. We do find a significant trend between the molecular content and stellar specific angular momentum. The galaxies of low angular momentum also have low CO detection rates, suggesting that their formation processes were more effective at destroying the molecular gas or preventing its re-accretion. We speculate on the implications of these data for the formation of various subclasses of early-type galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-967
Number of pages28
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The ATLAS(3D) project - IV. The molecular gas content of early-type galaxies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this