Disc galaxy resolved in HI absorption against the radio lobe of 3C 433: Case study for future surveys

Suma Murthy*, Raffaella Morganti, Bjorn Emonts, Montserrat Villar-Martín, Tom Oosterloo, Reynier Peletier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The neutral atomic gas content of galaxies is usually studied in the HI 21cm emission line of hydrogen. However, at higher redshifts, we need very deep integrations to detect HI emission. The HI absorption does not suffer from this dependence on distance as long as there is a bright enough background radio source. However, resolved HI absorption studies of galaxies are rare. We report one such rare study of resolved HI absorption against the radio galaxy 3C 433 at $z = 0.101$ with the VLA. The resolved kinematics of the absorber, located against the southern lobe of the 3C 433, shows that it has regular kinematics with an HI mass $\lesssim 3.4 \times 10^{8} M_{\odot}$ for T$_{spin} =$ 100K. Our deep optical continuum and H$\alpha$ observations from the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) show that the absorber is a faint disc galaxy in the same environment as 3C 433 with a stellar mass $\sim 10^{10} M_{\odot}$ and a star-formation rate of 0.15 $M_{\odot}~yr^{-1}$ or less. For its HI mass, HI column density, stellar mass, and star-formation rate, this galaxy lies well below the main sequence of star-forming galaxies. Its HI mass is lower than the galaxies studied in HI emission at $z \sim 0.1$. Our GTC imaging reveals interesting alignments between H$\alpha$ and radio emission in the HI companion and in the host galaxy of the AGN as well as in the circumgalactic medium in between. This suggests that the shock ionization of gas by the propagating radio source may happen across tens of kpc. Our work supports the potential of studying the HI content in galaxies via absorption in the case of a fortuitous alignment with an extended radio continuum. This allows us to trace galaxies with low HI masses which would otherwise be missed by deep HI emission surveys. In conjunction with the deep all-sky optical surveys, the blind HI surveys with the SKA pathfinders will be able to detect many such systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA74
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomy & astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 17-Sep-2020


  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies

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