The nucleus of M87 displays a LINER spectrum at optical wavelengths, with a nuclear disk of nebulosity that is resolved by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). We present new results from optical and ultraviolet spectra of the central ~40 pc as measured by HST. In contrast with previous results for the extended disk, the emission-line spectrum of the central region is best reproduced by a multicomponent photoionization scenario, rather than shock heating. The nebular properties as well as energetic considerations suggest a transition on scales of several tens of parsecs, from predominantly photoionization by a central accretion source to shock ionization within the disk. If this source is at all representative, it suggests that many LINERs may be composite in terms of the energetic processes that give rise to the emission spectrum. We also report measurements of resonance-line absorption for the nucleus. The absorption spectrum, like the emission lines, is characterized by low ionization. The absorption-line measurements coupled with independent constraints suggest a total hydrogen column density of 1019-1020 cm-2, outflowing from the galaxy center with a velocity of ~126 km s-1. The kinematic signature of an outflow, along with evidence that the absorber covers the power-law continuum source but not the emission-line clouds, suggests that the absorbing matter is related to accretion phenomena in the nucleus. The presence of such an outflow resembles similar behavior in luminous active galactic nuclei, although the low ionization that characterizes LINERs is probably indicative of a different mode of accretion in these sources.Based on observations with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- February 2003
- Galaxies: Active;
- Galaxies: Individual: Messier Number: M87;
- Galaxies: Nuclei;
- Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal