The [Fe II] 1.644 micron emission in M82 and NGC 253: Is it a measure of the supernova rate?

Almudena Alonso-Herrero, George H. Rieke, Marcia J. Rieke, Douglas M. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


We present Hubble Space Telescope NICMOS [Fe II] 1.644 μm, Paα (1.87 μm), and continuum images of the starburst galaxies M82 and NGC 253 at an unprecedented spatial resolution, In both galaxies we detect [Fe II] compact sources superposed on a diffuse background in the disk of the galaxies, together with a component above and below the plane of the galaxy. The radio and [Fe II] emissions perpendicular to the disk of M82 show a remarkable similarity to each other, suggesting that both emissions originate in shocks from supernova explosions. We find a spatial correspondence between bright compact [Fe II]-emitting regions and the location of radio supernova remnants (SNRs) for approximately 30%-50% of radio SNRs in M82 and NGC 253. This lack of a one-to-one correspondence, more than being indicative of a different origin for the radio and [Fe II] emission in starbursts, suggests two populations of SNRs: an older population (≤, 104 yr), traced by the [Fe II] emission, and a younger population (a few hundred years old), traced by the radio SNRs. We therefore conclude that the [Fe II] emission in starburst galaxies provides a good estimate of the supernova activity. Using our newly determined [Fe II] luminosities (corrected for extinction) of M82 and NGC 253, we reevaluate the calibration of the supernova rate in terms of the [Fe II] luminosity for starburst galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1225
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number3 1767
StatePublished - Mar 2003


  • Galaxies: individual (M82, NGC 253)
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: stellar content infrared radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The [Fe II] 1.644 micron emission in M82 and NGC 253: Is it a measure of the supernova rate?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this