High-redshift dust obscured galaxies: A morphology-spectral energy distribution connection revealed by Keck adaptive optics

J. Melbourne, R. S. Bussman, K. Brand, V. Desai, L. Armus, Arjun Dey, B. T. Jannuzi, J. R. Houck, K. Matthews, B. T. Soifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


A simple optical to mid-IR color selection, R - [24] > 14, i.e., f ν(24 μm)/fν(R) ≳ 1000, identifies highly dust obscured galaxies (DOGs) with typical redshifts of z 2 ± 0.5. Extreme mid-IR luminosities (LIR > 1012-14) suggest that DOGs are powered by a combination of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and star formation, possibly driven by mergers. In an effort to compare their photometric properties with their rest-frame optical morphologies, we obtained high-spatial resolution (0″05-0″1) Keck Adaptive Optics K′-band images of 15 DOGs. The images reveal a wide range of morphologies, including small exponential disks (eight of 15), small ellipticals (four of 15), and unresolved sources (two of 15). One particularly diffuse source could not be classified because of low signal-to-noise ratio. We find a statistically significant correlation between galaxy concentration and mid-IR luminosity, with the most luminous DOGs exhibiting higher concentration and smaller physical size. DOGs with high concentration also tend to have spectral energy distributions (SEDs) suggestive of AGN activity. Thus, central AGN light may be biasing the morphologies of the more luminous DOGs to higher concentration. Conversely, more diffuse DOGs tend to show an SED shape suggestive of star formation. Two of 15 in the sample show multiple resolved components with separations of ∼1 kpc, circumstantial evidence for ongoing mergers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4854-4866
Number of pages13
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: structure
  • infrared: galaxies
  • instrumentation: adaptive optics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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