Invited Review at the Conference Lighthouses of the universe. August 6-10, 2001 (Garching, Germany).
astro-ph/0201476

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The Most Luminous Galaxies

I. Félix Mirabel 1, 2


1 CEA/DSM/DAPNIA, Service d'Astrophysique, 91191 Gif/Yvette. France
2 IAFE/CONICET. cc 67, suc 28. Ciudad Universitaria. 1428 Buenos Aires. Argentina


Abstract. Ultraluminous galaxies in the local universe (z leq 0.2) emit the bulk of their energy in the mid and far-infrared. The multiwavelength approach to these objects has shown that they are advanced mergers of gas-rich spiral galaxies. Galaxy-galaxy collisions took place on all cosmological time-scales, and nearby mergers serve as local analogs to gain insight into the physical processes that lead to the formation and trans-formation of galaxies in the more distant universe. Here I review multiwavelength observations - with particular emphasis on recent results obtained with ISO - of mergers of massive galaxies driving the formation of: 1) luminous infrared galaxies, 2) elliptical galaxy cores, 3) luminous dust-enshrouded extranuclear starbursts, 4) symbiotic galaxies that host AGNs, and 5) tidal dwarf galaxies. The most important implication for studies on the formation of galaxies at early cosmological timescales is that the distant analogs to the local ultraluminous infrared galaxies are invisible in the ultraviolet and optical wavelength rest-frames and should be detected as sub-millimeter sources with no optical counterparts.


Table of Contents

LUMINOUS GALAXIES

ISO OBSERVATION OF EXTRANUCLEAR STARBURSTS

SYMBIOTIC GALAXIES

FORMATION OF ELLIPTICALS

TIDAL DWARF GALAXIES

CONCLUSIONS

REFERENCES

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