Evidence for a clumpy, rotating gas disk in a submillimeter galaxy at z = 4

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The Astrophysical Journal

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We present Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array observations of the CO(2-1) emission in the z = 4.05 submillimeter galaxy (SMG) GN20. These high-resolution data allow us to image the molecular gas at 1.3 kpc resolution just 1.6 Gyr after the big bang. The data reveal a clumpy, extended gas reservoir, 14 {+-} 4 kpc in diameter, in unprecedented detail. A dynamical analysis shows that the data are consistent with a rotating disk of total dynamical mass 5.4 {+-} 2.4 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 11} M {sub Sun }. We use this dynamical mass estimate to constrain the CO-to-H{sub 2} mass conversion factor ({alpha}{sub CO}), finding {alpha}{sub CO} = 1.1 {+-} 0.6 M {sub Sun }(K km s{sup -1} pc{sup 2}){sup -1}. We identify five distinct molecular gas clumps in the disk of GN20 with masses a few percent of the total gas mass, brightness temperatures of 16-31K, and surface densities of >3200-4500 Multiplication-Sign ({alpha}{sub CO}/0.8) M {sub Sun} pc{sup -2}. Virial mass estimates indicate they could be self-gravitating, and we constrain their CO-to-H{sub 2} mass conversion factor to be <0.2-0.7 M {sub Sun }(K km s{sup -1} pc{sup 2}){sup -1}. A multiwavelength comparison demonstrates that the molecular gas is concentrated in a region of the galaxy that is heavily obscured in the rest-frame UV/optical. We investigate the spatially resolved gas excitation and find that the CO(6-5)/CO(2-1) ratio is constant with radius, consistent with star formation occurring over a large portion of the disk. We discuss the implications of our results in the context of different fueling scenarios for SMGs.