Get access

NGC 3801 caught in the act: a post-merger star-forming early-type galaxy with AGN–jet feedback


E-mail: (AH); (S-CR) (Corresponding authors)


In the current models of galaxy formation and evolution, AGN feedback is crucial to reproduce galaxy luminosity function, colour–magnitude relation and M–σ relation. However, whether AGN feedback can indeed expel and heat up significant amount of cool molecular gas and consequently quench star formation is yet to be demonstrated observationally. Only in four cases so far (Cen A, NGC 3801, NGC 6764 and Mrk 6), X-ray observations have found evidences of jet-driven shocks heating the ISM. We chose the least explored galaxy NGC 3801, and present the first ultraviolet imaging and stellar population analysis of this galaxy from GALEX data. We find this merger-remnant early-type galaxy to have an intriguing spiral wisp of young star-forming regions (age ranging from 100 to 500 Myr). Taking clues from dust/PAH, H i and CO emission images, we interpret NGC 3801 to have a kinematically decoupled core or an extremely warped gas disc. From the HST data, we also show evidence of ionized gas outflow similar to that observed in H i and molecular gas (CO) data, which may have caused the decline of star formation leading to the red optical colour of the galaxy. However, from these panchromatic data, we interpret that the expanding shock shells from the young (∼2.4 Myr) radio jets are yet to reach the outer gaseous regions of the galaxy. It seems we observe this galaxy at a rare stage of its evolutionary sequence where post-merger star formation has already declined and new powerful jet feedback is about to affect the gaseous star-forming outer disc within the next 10 Myr, to further transform it into a red-and-dead early-type galaxy.