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Properties of mm galaxies: Constraints from K-band blank fields

Abstract

We have used the IRAM Plateau de Bure mm interferometer to locate with subarcsecond accuracy the dust emission of three of the brightest 1.2mm sources in the NTT Deep Field (NDF) selected from our 1.2mm MAMBO survey at the IRAM 30m telescope. We combine these results with deep B to K imaging and VLA interferometry. Strikingly, none of the three accurately located mm galaxies MMJ120546-0741.5, MMJ120539-0745.4, and MMJ120517-0743.1 has a K-band counterpart down to the faint limit of K>21.9. This implies that these three galaxies are either extremely obscured and/or are at very high redshifts (z>~4). We combine our results with literature data for 11 more (sub)mm galaxies that are identified with similar reliability. In terms of their K-band properties, the sample divides into three roughly equal groups: (i) undetected to K~22, (ii) detected in the near-infrared but not the optical and (iii) detected in the optical with the possibility of optical follow-up spectroscopy. We find a trend in this sample between near-infrared to submm and submm to radio spectral indices, which in comparison to spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of low redshift infrared luminous galaxies suggests that the most plausible primary factor causing the extreme near-infrared faintness of our objects is their high redshift. We show that the near-infrared to radio SEDs of the sample are inconsistent with SEDs that resemble local far-infrared cool galaxies with moderate luminosities, which were proposed in some models of the submm sky. We briefly discuss the implications of the results for our understanding of galaxy formation.Comment: aastex, 5 figures. Accepted by Ap

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