The molecular gas density in galaxy centers and how it connects to bulges

David B. Fisher, Alberto Bolatto, Niv Drory, Francoise Combes, Leo Blitz, Tony Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we present gas density, star formation rate (SFR), stellar masses, and bulge-disk decompositions for a sample of 60 galaxies. Our sample is the combined sample of the BIMA SONG, CARMA STING, and PdBI NUGA surveys. We study the effect of using CO-to-H2 conversion factors that depend on the CO surface brightness, and also that of correcting SFRs for diffuse emission from old stellar populations. We estimate that SFRs in bulges are typically lower by 20% when correcting for diffuse emission. Using the surface brightness dependent conversion factor, we find that over half of the galaxies in our sample have Σmol > 100 M pc-2. Though our sample is not complete in any sense, our results are enough to rule out the assumption that bulges are uniformly gas-poor systems. We find a trend between gas density of bulges and bulge Sérsic index; bulges with lower Sérsic index have higher gas density. Those bulges with low Sérsic index (pseudobulges) have gas fractions that are similar to that of disks. Conversely, the typical molecular gas fraction in classical bulges is more similar to that of an elliptical galaxy. We also find that there is a strong correlation between bulges with the highest gas surface density and the galaxy being barred. However, we also find that classical bulges with low gas surface density can be barred as well. Our results suggest that understanding the connection between the central surface density of gas in disk galaxies and the presence of bars should also take into account the total gas content of the galaxy. Finally, we show that when using the corrected SFRs and gas densities, the correlation between SFR surface density and gas surface density of bulges is similar to that of disks. This implies that at the scale of the bulges the timescale for converting gas into stars is comparable to those results found in disks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number174
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2013


  • galaxies: ISM
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • galaxies: spiral
  • galaxies: structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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