The nature of LINERs

Almudena Alonso-Herrero, Marcia J. Rieke, George H. Rieke, Joseph C. Shields

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


We present J-band (1.15-1.35 μm) spectroscopy of a sample of nine galaxies showing some degree of LINER activity (classical LINERs, weak-[O I] LINERs, and transition objects), together with H-band spectroscopy for some of them. A careful subtraction of the stellar continuum allows us to obtain reliable [Fe II] 1.2567 μm/Paβ line ratios. We conclude that different types of LINERs (i.e., photoionized by a stellar continuum or by an active galactic nucleus) cannot be easily distinguished based solely on the [Fe II] 1.2567 μm/Paβ line ratio. The emission-line properties of many LINERs can be explained in terms of an aging starburst. The optical line ratios of these LINERs are reproduced by a model with a metal-rich H II region component photoionized with a single stellar temperature T* = 38,000 K, plus a supernova remnant (SNR) component. The [Fe II] line is predominantly excited by shocks produced by SNRs in starbursts and starburst-dominated LINERs, while Paβ tracks H II regions ionized by massive young stars. The contribution from SNRs to the overall emission-line spectrum is constrained by the [Fe II] 1.2567 μm/Paβ line ratio. Although our models for aging starbursts are constrained only by these infrared lines, they consistently explain the optical spectra of the galaxies also. The LINER-starburst connection is tested by predicting the time dependence of the ratio of the ionizing luminosity (Lion) to the supernova rate (SNr), Lion/(SNr). We predict the relative number of starbursts to starburst-dominated LINERs (aging starbursts) and show that it is in approximate agreement with survey findings for nearby galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-703
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Feb 20 2000


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: stellar content
  • Infrared: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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