The nuclear activity and central structure of the elliptical galaxy NGC 5322

Dullo, Bililign T, Knapen, Johan H, Williams, David R A, Beswick, Robert J, Bendo, George, Baldi, Ranieri D, Argo, Megan K. orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3594-0214, McHardy, Ian M, Muxlow, Tom et al (2018) The nuclear activity and central structure of the elliptical galaxy NGC 5322. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . ISSN 0035-8711

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We have analysed a new high-resolution e-MERLIN 1.5 GHz radio continuum map together with HST and SDSS imaging of NGC 5322, an elliptical galaxy hosting radio jets, aiming to understand the galaxy’s central structure and its connection to the nuclear activity. We decomposed the composite HST + SDSS surface brightness profile of the galaxy into an inner stellar disc, a spheroid, and an outer stellar halo. Past works showed that this embedded disc counter-rotates rapidly with respect to the spheroid. The HST images reveal an edge-on nuclear dust disc across the centre, aligned along the major-axis of the galaxy and nearly perpendicular to the radio jets. After careful masking of this dust disc, we find a central stellar mass deficit Mdef in the spheroid, scoured by SMBH binaries with final mass MBH such that Mdef/MBH ∼ 1.3 − 3.4. We propose a three-phase formation scenario for NGC 5322 where a few (2 − 7) ‘dry’ major mergers involving SMBHs built the spheroid with a depleted core. The cannibalism of a gas-rich satellite subsequently creates the faint counter-rotating disc and funnels gaseous material directly onto the AGN, powering the radio core with a brightness temperature of TB, core ∼ 4.5 × 107 K and the low-power radio jets (Pjets ∼ 7.04 × 1020 W Hz−1) which extend ∼1.6 kpc. The outer halo can later grow via minor mergers and the accretion of tidal debris. The low-luminosity AGN/jet-driven feedback may have quenched the late-time nuclear star formation promptly, which could otherwise have replenished the depleted core.

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