Local luminous infrared galaxies: Spatially resolved mid-infrared observations with Spitzer/IRS

Almudena Alonso-Herrero, Miguel Pereira-Santaella, George H. Rieke, Luis Colina, Charles W. Engelbracht, Pablo G. Pérez-González, Tanio Díaz-Santos, J. D.T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Luminous Infrared (IR) Galaxies (LIRGs, L IR = 10 11 s(-) 10 12 L ȯ ) are an important cosmological class of galaxies as they are the main contributors to the co-moving star formation rate density of the universe at z = 1. In this paper we present a guaranteed time observation (GTO) Spitzer InfraRed Spectrograph (IRS) program aimed to obtain spectral mapping of a sample of 14 local (d < 76 Mpc) LIRGs. The data cubes map, at least, the central 20 arcsec × 20 arcsec to 30 arcsec × 30 arcsec regions of the galaxies, and use all four IRS modules covering the full 5 s(-) 38 μ m spectral range. The final goal of this project is to characterize fully the mid-IR properties of local LIRGs as a first step to understanding their more distant counterparts. In this paper we present the first results of this GTO program. The IRS spectral mapping data allow us to build spectral maps of the bright mid-IR emission lines (e.g., [Ne ii]12.81 μ m, [Ne iii]15.56 μ m, [S iii]18.71 μ m, H 2 at 17 μ m), continuum, the 6.2 and 11.3 μ m polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) features, and the 9.7 μ m silicate feature, as well as to extract 1D spectra for regions of interest in each galaxy. The IRS data are used to obtain spatially resolved measurements of the extinction using the 9.7 μ m silicate feature, and to trace star forming regions using the neon lines and the PAH features. We also investigate a number of active galactic nuclei (AGN) indicators, including the presence of high excitation emission lines and a strong dust continuum emission at around 6 μ m. We finally use the integrated Spitzer/IRS spectra as templates of local LIRGs. We discuss several possible uses for these templates, including the calibration of the star formation rate of IR-bright galaxies at high redshift. We also predict the intensities of the brightest mid-IR emission lines for LIRGs as a function of redshift, and compare them with the expected sensitivities of future space IR missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-111
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2010


  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: structure
  • Infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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