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Title: Offset active galactic nuclei as tracers of galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole growth

Abstract

Offset active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are AGNs that are in ongoing galaxy mergers, which produce kinematic offsets in the AGNs relative to their host galaxies. Offset AGNs are also close relatives of dual AGNs. We conduct a systematic search for offset AGNs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey by selecting AGN emission lines that exhibit statistically significant line-of-sight velocity offsets relative to systemic. From a parent sample of 18,314 Type 2 AGNs at z < 0.21, we identify 351 offset AGN candidates with velocity offsets of 50 km s{sup –1} < |Δv| < 410 km s{sup –1}. When we account for projection effects in the observed velocities, we estimate that 4%-8% of AGNs are offset AGNs. We designed our selection criteria to bypass velocity offsets produced by rotating gas disks, AGN outflows, and gravitational recoil of supermassive black holes, but follow-up observations are still required to confirm our candidates as offset AGNs. We find that the fraction of AGNs that are offset candidates increases with AGN bolometric luminosity, from 0.7% to 6% over the luminosity range 43 < log (L{sub bol}) [erg s{sup –1}] <46. If these candidates are shown to be bona fide offset AGNs, then this would bemore » direct observational evidence that galaxy mergers preferentially trigger high-luminosity AGNs. Finally, we find that the fraction of AGNs that are offset AGN candidates increases from 1.9% at z = 0.1 to 32% at z = 0.7, in step with the growth in the galaxy merger fraction over the same redshift range.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2]
  1. Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309 (United States)
  2. Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
22365727
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Astrophysical Journal; Journal Volume: 789; Journal Issue: 2; Other Information: Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
79 ASTROPHYSICS, COSMOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY; BLACK HOLES; BOLOMETERS; EMISSION; GALAXIES; GALAXY NUCLEI; INTERACTIONS; LUMINOSITY; RED SHIFT; VELOCITY

Citation Formats

Comerford, Julia M., and Greene, Jenny E. Offset active galactic nuclei as tracers of galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole growth. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/112.
Comerford, Julia M., & Greene, Jenny E. Offset active galactic nuclei as tracers of galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole growth. United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/112.
Comerford, Julia M., and Greene, Jenny E. 2014. "Offset active galactic nuclei as tracers of galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole growth". United States. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/112.
@article{osti_22365727,
title = {Offset active galactic nuclei as tracers of galaxy mergers and supermassive black hole growth},
author = {Comerford, Julia M. and Greene, Jenny E.},
abstractNote = {Offset active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are AGNs that are in ongoing galaxy mergers, which produce kinematic offsets in the AGNs relative to their host galaxies. Offset AGNs are also close relatives of dual AGNs. We conduct a systematic search for offset AGNs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey by selecting AGN emission lines that exhibit statistically significant line-of-sight velocity offsets relative to systemic. From a parent sample of 18,314 Type 2 AGNs at z < 0.21, we identify 351 offset AGN candidates with velocity offsets of 50 km s{sup –1} < |Δv| < 410 km s{sup –1}. When we account for projection effects in the observed velocities, we estimate that 4%-8% of AGNs are offset AGNs. We designed our selection criteria to bypass velocity offsets produced by rotating gas disks, AGN outflows, and gravitational recoil of supermassive black holes, but follow-up observations are still required to confirm our candidates as offset AGNs. We find that the fraction of AGNs that are offset candidates increases with AGN bolometric luminosity, from 0.7% to 6% over the luminosity range 43 < log (L{sub bol}) [erg s{sup –1}] <46. If these candidates are shown to be bona fide offset AGNs, then this would be direct observational evidence that galaxy mergers preferentially trigger high-luminosity AGNs. Finally, we find that the fraction of AGNs that are offset AGN candidates increases from 1.9% at z = 0.1 to 32% at z = 0.7, in step with the growth in the galaxy merger fraction over the same redshift range.},
doi = {10.1088/0004-637X/789/2/112},
journal = {Astrophysical Journal},
number = 2,
volume = 789,
place = {United States},
year = 2014,
month = 7
}
  • We estimate the average radio active galactic nucleus (AGN, mechanical) power deposited into the hot atmospheres of galaxy clusters over more than three quarters of the age of the Universe. Our sample was drawn from eight major X-ray cluster surveys and includes 685 clusters in the redshift range 0.1 < z < 0.6 that overlap the area covered by the NRAO VLA Sky Survey (NVSS). The radio-AGN mechanical power was estimated from the radio luminosity of central NVSS sources, using the relation of Cavagnolo et al. that is based on mechanical powers determined from the enthalpies of X-ray cavities. Wemore » find only a weak correlation between radio luminosity and cluster X-ray luminosity, although the most powerful radio sources reside in luminous clusters. The average AGN mechanical power of 3 Multiplication-Sign 10{sup 44} erg s{sup -1} exceeds the X-ray luminosity of 44% of the clusters, indicating that the accumulation of radio-AGN energy is significant in these clusters. Integrating the AGN mechanical power to redshift z = 2.0, using simple models for its evolution and disregarding the hierarchical growth of clusters, we find that the AGN energy accumulated per particle in low luminosity X-ray clusters exceeds 1 keV per particle. This result represents a conservative lower limit to the accumulated thermal energy. The estimate is comparable to the level of energy needed to 'preheat' clusters, indicating that continual outbursts from radio-AGN are a significant source of gas energy in hot atmospheres. Assuming an average mass conversion efficiency of {eta} = 0.1, our result implies that the supermassive black holes that released this energy did so by accreting an average of {approx}10{sup 9} M {sub Sun} over time, which is comparable to the level of growth expected during the quasar era.« less
  • Galaxy mergers are likely to play a role in triggering active galactic nuclei (AGNs), but the conditions under which this process occurs are poorly understood. In Paper I, we constructed a sample of spatially offset X-ray AGNs that represent galaxy mergers hosting a single AGN. In this paper, we use our offset AGN sample to constrain the parameters that affect AGN observability in galaxy mergers. We also construct dual-AGN samples with similar selection properties for comparison. We find that the offset AGN fraction shows no evidence for a dependence on AGN luminosity, while the dual-AGN fractions show stronger evidence formore » a positive dependence, suggesting that the merger events forming dual AGNs are more efficient at instigating accretion onto supermassive black holes than those forming offset AGNs. We also find that the offset and dual-AGN fractions both have a negative dependence on nuclear separation and are similar in value at small physical scales. This dependence may become stronger when restricted to high AGN luminosities, although a larger sample is needed for confirmation. These results indicate that the probability of AGN triggering increases at later merger stages. This study is the first to systematically probe down to nuclear separations of <1 kpc (∼0.8 kpc) and is consistent with predictions from simulations that AGN observability peaks in this regime. We also find that the offset AGNs are not preferentially obscured compared to the parent AGN sample, suggesting that our selection may be targeting galaxy mergers with relatively dust-free nuclear regions.« less
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