Context: The morphology of massive star formation in the central regions of galaxies is an important tracer of the dynamical processes that govern the evolution of disk, bulge, and nuclear activity. Aims: We present optical imaging of the central regions of a sample of 73 spiral galaxies in the H alpha line and in optical broad bands, and derive information on the morphology of massive star formation. Methods: We obtained images with the William Herschel Telescope, mostly at a spatial resolution of below one second of arc. For most galaxies, no H alpha imaging is available in the literature. We outline the observing and data reduction procedures, list basic properties, and present the I-band and continuum-subtracted H alpha images. We classify the morphology of the nuclear and circumnuclear H alpha emission and explore trends with host galaxy parameters. Results: We confirm that late-type galaxies have a patchy circumnuclear appearance in H alpha, and that nuclear rings occur primarily in spiral types Sa-Sbc. We identify a number of previously unknown nuclear rings, and confirm that nuclear rings are predominantly hosted by barred galaxies. Conclusions: Other than in stimulating nuclear rings, bars do not influence the relative strength of the nuclear H alpha peak, nor the circumnuclear H alpha morphology. Even though our selection criteria led to an over-abundance of galaxies with close massive companions, we do not find any significant influence of the presence or absence of a close companion on the relative strength of the nuclear H alpha peak, nor on the H alpha morphology around the nucleus. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).

Publication Date



Also archived in: arXiv:astro-ph/0511558 v1 18 Nov 2005 This research has been partially supported by NASA/LTSA 5-13063, NASA/ATP NAG5-10823, HST/AR-10284 and by NSF/AST 02-06251.ISSN:1432-0746 Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


RIT – Main Campus