We investigate the central regions of 23 spiral galaxies using archival NICMOS imaging and STIS spectroscopy. The sample is taken from our program to determine the masses of central massive black holes (MBH) in 54 nearby spiral galaxies. Stars are likely to contribute significantly to any dynamical central mass concentration that we find in our MBH program and this paper is part of a series to investigate the nuclear properties of these galaxies. We use the Nuker law to fit surface brightness profiles, derived from the NICMOS images, to look for nuclear star clusters and find possible extended sources in 3 of the 23 galaxies studied (13 per cent). The fact that this fraction is lower than that inferred from optical Hubble Space Telescope studies is probably due to the greater spatial resolution of those studies. Using R-H and J-H colors and equivalent widths of H-alpha emission (from the STIS spectra) we investigate the nature of the stellar population with evolutionary models. Under the assumption of hot stars ionizing the gas, as opposed to a weak AGN, we find that there are young stellar populations (~10-20 Myr) however these data do not allow us to determine what percentage of the total nuclear stellar population they form. Also, in an attempt to find any unknown AGN we use [N II] and [S II] line flux ratios (relative to H-alpha) and find tentative evidence for weak AGN in NGC 1300 and NGC 4536.

Publication Date



This is the pre-print of an article published by the American Astronomical Society. Copyright 2005 The American Astronomical Society. The final, published version is located here: https://doi.org/10.1086/430531

Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0503693 v1 31 Mar 2005

MAH thanks A Robinson and R. van der Marel for their comments and suggestions. MAH particularly thanks Jim Collett for very useful discussions. We would also like to thank the anonymous referee for valuable suggestions which improved this paper. We have made use of the LEDA database (http://leda.univ-lyon1.fr). This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED) which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus