We present the results of a high-resolution, 5 GHz, Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array study of the nuclear radio emission in a representative subset of the ATLAS3D survey of early-type galaxies (ETGs). We find that 51 ± 4% of the ETGs in our sample contain nuclear radio emission with luminosities as low as 1018 W Hz−1. Most of the nuclear radio sources have compact (≲ 25 − 110 pc) morphologies, although ∼10% display multi-component core+jet or extended jet/lobe structures. Based on the radio continuum properties, as well as optical emission line diagnostics and the nuclear X-ray properties, we conclude that the majority of the central 5 GHz sources detected in the ATLAS3D galaxies are associated with the presence of an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, even at sub-arcsecond spatial resolution, the nuclear radio emission in some cases appears to arise from low-level nuclear star formation rather than an AGN, particularly when molecular gas and a young central stellar population is present. This is in contrast to popular assumptions in the literature that the presence of a compact, unresolved, nuclear radio continuum source universally signifies the presence of an AGN. Additionally, we examine the relationships between the 5 GHz luminosity and various galaxy properties including the molecular gas mass and - for the first time - the global kinematic state. We discuss implications for the growth, triggering, and fueling of radio AGNs, as well as AGN-driven feedback in the continued evolution of nearby ETGs.
- Galaxies: elliptical and lenticular
- Galaxies: active
- Galaxies: nuclei
- Radio continuum: galaxies