IRAS 14348-1447, an Ultraluminous Pair of Colliding, Gas-Rich Galaxies: The Birth of a Quasar?

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Science  05 Feb 1988:
Vol. 239, Issue 4840, pp. 625-627
DOI: 10.1126/science.239.4840.625


Ground-based observations of the object IRAS 14348-1447, which was discovered with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, show that it is an extremely luminous colliding galaxy system that emits more than 95 percent of its energy at far-infrared wavelengths. IRAS 14348-1447, which is receeding from the sun at 8 percent of the speed of light, has a bolometric luminosity more than 100 times larger than that of our galaxy, and is therefore as luminous as optical quasars. New optical, infrared, and spectroscopic measurements suggest that the dominant luminosity source is a dustenshrouded quasar. The fuel for the intense activity is an enormous supply of molecular gas. Carbon monoxide emission has been detected at a wavelength of 2.6 millimeters by means of a new, more sensitive receiver recently installed on the 12-meter telescope of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. IRAS 14348-1447 is the most distant and luminous source of carbon monoxide line emission yet detected. The derived mass of interstellar molecular hydrogen is 6 x 1010 solar masses. This value is approximately 20 times that of the molecular gas content of the Milky Way and is similar to the largest masses of atomic hydrogen found in galaxies. A large mass of molecular gas may be a prerequisite for the formation of quasars during strong galactic collisions.

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