We present near-infrared observations of 35 of the most massive early-type galaxies in the local universe. The observations were made using the infrared channel of the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the F110W (1.1 μm) filter. We measured surface brightness profiles and elliptical isophotal fit parameters from the nuclear regions out to a radius of ∼10 kpc in most cases. We find that 37% (13) of the galaxies in our sample have isophotal position-angle rotations greater than 20 over the radial range imaged by WFC3/IR, which is often due to the presence of neighbors or multiple nuclei. Most galaxies in our sample are significantly rounder near the center than in the outer regions. This sample contains 6 fast rotators and 28 slow rotators. We find that all fast rotators are either disky or show no measurable deviation from purely elliptical isophotes. Among slow rotators, significantly disky and boxy galaxies occur with nearly equal frequency. The galaxies in our sample often exhibit changing isophotal shapes, sometimes showing both significantly disky and boxy isophotes at different radii. The fact that parameters vary widely between galaxies and within individual galaxies is evidence that these massive galaxies have complicated formation histories, and some of them have experienced recent mergers and have not fully relaxed. These data demonstrate the value of IR imaging of galaxies at high spatial resolution and provide measurements necessary for determining stellar masses, dynamics, and black hole masses in high-mass galaxies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science
- galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD
- galaxies: photometry
- galaxies: structure