SMM J04135+10277: A Candidate Early-Stage "Wet-Dry" Merger of Two Massive Galaxies at z=2.8
We report interferometric imaging of CO(J=3-2) emission toward the z=2.846 submillimeter-selected galaxy SMM J04135+10277, using the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA). SMM J04135+10277 was previously thought to be a gas-rich, submillimeter-selected quasar, with the highest molecular gas mass among high-z quasars reported in the literature. Our maps at ~6x improved linear resolution relative to earlier observations spatially resolve the emission on ~1.7" scales, corresponding to a (lensing-corrected) source radius of ~5.2 kpc. They also reveal that the molecular gas reservoir, and thus, likely the submillimeter emission, is not associated with the host galaxy of the quasar, but with an optically faint gas-rich galaxy at 5.2", or 41.5 kpc projected distance from the active galactic nucleus (AGN). The obscured gas-rich galaxy has a dynamical mass of M_dyn sin2(i)=5.6x10^11 M_sun, corresponding to a gas mass fraction of ~21%. Assuming a typical M_BH/M* ratio for z>2 quasars, the two galaxies in this system have an approximate mass ratio of ~1.9. Our findings suggest that this quasar-starburst galaxy pair could represent an early stage of a rare major, gas-rich/gas-poor ("wet-dry") merger of two massive galaxies at z=2.8, rather than a single, gas-rich AGN host galaxy. Such systems could play an important role in the early buildup of present-day massive galaxies through a submillimeter-luminous starburst phase, and may remain hidden in larger numbers among rest-frame far-infrared-selected quasar samples at low and high redshift.