Mid-infrared diagnostics are presented for a large portion of the Spitzer Infrared Nearby Galaxies Survey (SINGS) sample plus archival data from ISO and Spitzer, The SINGS data set includes low- and high-resolution spectral maps and broadband imaging in the infrared for over 160 nuclear and extranuclear regions within 75 nearby galaxies spanning a wide range of morphologies, metallicities, luminosities, and star formation rates. Our main result is that these mid-infrared diagnostics effectively constrain a target's dominant power source. The combination of a highionization line index and PAH strength serves as an efficient discriminant between AGNs and star-forming nuclei, confirming progress made with ISO spectroscopy on starbursting and ultraluminous infrared galaxies. The sensitivity of Spitzer allows us to probe fainter nuclear and star-forming regions within galaxy disks. We find that both star-forming nuclei and extranuclear regions stand apart from nuclei that are powered by Seyfert or LINER activity. In fact, we identify areas within four diagnostic diagrams containing >90% Seyfert/LINER nuclei or >90% H II regions/H II nuclei. We also find that, compared to starbursting nuclei, extranuclear regions typically separate even further from AGNs, especially for low-metallicity extranuclear environments. In addition, instead of the traditional midinfrared approach to differentiating between AGNs and star-forming sources that utilizes relatively weak highionization lines, we show that strong low-ionization cooling lines of X-ray-dominated regions like [Si II] 34.82 μm can alternatively be used as excellent discriminants. Finally, the typical target in this sample shows relatively modest interstellar electron density (∼400 cm-3) and obscuration (AV ∼ 1.0 mag for a foreground screen), consistent with a lack of dense clumps of highly obscured gas and dust residing in the emitting regions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- Galaxies: active
- Galaxies: nuclei - H ii regions
- Infrared: ISM
- Infrared: galaxies