The merger history, active galactic nucleus, and dwarf galaxies of Hickson compact group 59

I. S. Konstantopoulos, S. C. Gallagher, K. Fedotov, P. R. Durrell, P. Tzanavaris, A. R. Hill, A. I. Zabludoff, M. L. Maier, D. M. Elmegreen, J. C. Charlton, K. E. Johnson, W. N. Brandt, L. M. Walker, M. Eracleous, A. Maybhate, C. Gronwall, J. English, A. E. Hornschemeier, J. S. Mulchaey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Compact group galaxies often appear unaffected by their unusually dense environment. Closer examination can, however, reveal the subtle, cumulative effects of multiple galaxy interactions. Hickson Compact Group (HCG) 59 is an excellent example of this situation. We present a photometric study of this group in the optical (Hubble Space Telescope), infrared (Spitzer), and X-ray (Chandra) regimes aimed at characterizing the star formation and nuclear activity in its constituent galaxies and intra-group medium. We associate five dwarf galaxies with the group and update the velocity dispersion, leading to an increase in the dynamical mass of the group of up to a factor of 10 (to 2.8 × 1013 M ), and a subsequent revision of its evolutionary stage. Star formation is proceeding at a level consistent with the morphological types of the four main galaxies, of which two are star-forming and the other are two quiescent. Unlike in some other compact groups, star-forming complexes across HCG59 closely follow mass-radius scaling relations typical of nearby galaxies. In contrast, the ancient globular cluster populations in galaxies HCG59A and B show intriguing irregularities, and two extragalactic H II regions are found just west of B. We age-date a faint stellar stream in the intra-group medium at 1Gyr to examine recent interactions. We detect a likely low-luminosity active galactic nucleus in HCG59A by its 1040ergs -1 X-ray emission; the active nucleus rather than star formation can account for the UV+IR spectral energy distribution. We discuss the implications of our findings in the context of galaxy evolution in dense environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number30
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2012


  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: clusters: individual (HCG 59)
  • galaxies: dwarf
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • galaxies: interactions
  • galaxies: star clusters: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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