ISO spectroscopy of star formation and active nuclei in the luminous infrared galaxy NGC 6240

D. Lutz, E. Sturm, R. Genzel, H. W.W. Spoon, A. F.M. Moorwood, H. Netzer, A. Sternberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present Infrared Space Observatory mid- and far-infrared spectroscopy of the merging galaxy NGC 6240, an object presenting many aspects of importance for the role of star formation and AGN activity in [ultra]luminous infrared galaxies. The mid-infrared spectrum shows starburst indicators in the form of low excitation fine-structure line emission and aromatic "PAH" features. A strong high excitation [OIV] line is observed which most likely originates in the Narrow Line Region of an optically obscured AGN. NGC 6240 shows extremely powerful emission in the pure rotational lines of molecular hydrogen. We argue that this emission is mainly due to shocks in its turbulent central gas component and its starburst superwind. The total shock cooling in infrared emission lines accounts for ∼0.6% of the bolometric luminosity, mainly through rotational H2 emission and the [OI]63 μm line. We analyse several ways of estimating the luminosities of the starburst and the AGN in NGC 6240 and suggest that the contributions to its bolometric luminosity are most likely in the range 50-75% starburst and 25-50% AGN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-878
Number of pages12
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: individual: NGC 6240
  • Galaxies: starburst
  • Infrared: galaxies


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