Looking at the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array: Discovery of a Luminous OH Megamaser at z > 0.5

Marcin Glowacki, Jordan D. Collier, Amir Kazemi-Moridani, Bradley Frank, Hayley Roberts, Jeremy Darling, Hans Rainer Klöckner, Nathan Adams, Andrew J. Baker, Matthew Bershady, Tariq Blecher, Sarah Louise Blyth, Rebecca Bowler, Barbara Catinella, Laurent Chemin, Steven M. Crawford, Catherine Cress, Romeel Davé, Roger Deane, Erwin De BlokJacinta Delhaize, Kenneth Duncan, Ed Elson, Sean February, Eric Gawiser, Peter Hatfield, Julia Healy, Patricia Henning, Kelley M. Hess, Ian Heywood, Benne W. Holwerda, Munira Hoosain, John P. Hughes, Zackary L. Hutchens, Matt Jarvis, Sheila Kannappan, Neal Katz, Dušan Kereš, Marie Korsaga, Renée C. Kraan-Korteweg, Philip Lah, Michelle Lochner, Natasha Maddox, Sphesihle Makhathini, Gerhardt R. Meurer, Martin Meyer, Danail Obreschkow, Se Heon Oh, Tom Oosterloo, Joshua Oppor, Hengxing Pan, D. J. Pisano, Nandrianina Randriamiarinarivo, Swara Ravindranath, Anja C. Schröder, Rosalind Skelton, Oleg Smirnov, Mathew Smith, Rachel S. Somerville, Raghunathan Srianand, Lister Staveley-Smith, Masayuki Tanaka, Mattia Vaccari, Wim Van Driel, Marc Verheijen, Fabian Walter, John F. Wu, Martin A. Zwaan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the local universe, OH megamasers (OHMs) are detected almost exclusively in infrared-luminous galaxies, with a prevalence that increases with IR luminosity, suggesting that they trace gas-rich galaxy mergers. Given the proximity of the rest frequencies of OH and the hyperfine transition of neutral atomic hydrogen (H i), radio surveys to probe the cosmic evolution of H i in galaxies also offer exciting prospects for exploiting OHMs to probe the cosmic history of gas-rich mergers. Using observations for the Looking At the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array (LADUMA) deep H i survey, we report the first untargeted detection of an OHM at z > 0.5, LADUMA J033046.20-275518.1 (nicknamed "Nkalakatha"). The host system, WISEA J033046.26-275518.3, is an infrared-luminous radio galaxy whose optical redshift z ≈ 0.52 confirms the MeerKAT emission-line detection as OH at a redshift z OH = 0.5225 ± 0.0001 rather than H i at lower redshift. The detected spectral line has 18.4σ peak significance, a width of 459 ± 59 km s-1, and an integrated luminosity of (6.31 ± 0.18 [statistical] ± 0.31 [systematic]) × 103 L ⊙, placing it among the most luminous OHMs known. The galaxy's far-infrared luminosity L FIR = (1.576 ±0.013) × 1012 L ⊙ marks it as an ultraluminous infrared galaxy; its ratio of OH and infrared luminosities is similar to those for lower-redshift OHMs. A comparison between optical and OH redshifts offers a slight indication of an OH outflow. This detection represents the first step toward a systematic exploitation of OHMs as a tracer of galaxy growth at high redshifts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL7
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume931
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

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