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Observability of dual active galactic nuclei in merfing galaxies


Van Wassenhove, Sandor; Volonteri, Marta; Mayer, Lucio; Dotti, Massimo; Bellovary, Jillian; Callegari, Simone (2012). Observability of dual active galactic nuclei in merfing galaxies. Astrophysical Journal Letters, 748(1):L7.

Abstract

Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) have been detected in the centers of most nearby massive galaxies. Galaxies today are not only the products of billions of years of galaxy mergers, but also billions of years of SMBH activity as active galactic nuclei (AGNs) that is connected to galaxy mergers. In this context, detection of AGN pairs should be relatively common. Observationally, however, dual AGNs are scant, being just a few percent of all AGNs. In this Letter, we investigate the triggering of AGN activity in merging galaxies via a suite of high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations. We follow the dynamics and accretion onto the SMBHs as they move from separations of tens of kiloparsecs to tens of parsecs. Our resolution, cooling, and star formation implementation produce an inhomogeneous, multi-phase interstellar medium, allowing us to accurately trace star formation and accretion onto the SMBHs. We study the impact of gas content, morphology, and mass ratio, focusing on AGN activity and dynamics across a wide range of relevant conditions. We test when the two AGNs are simultaneously detectable, for how long and at which separations. We find that strong dual AGN activity occurs during the late phases of the mergers, at small separations (<1-10 kpc) below the resolution limit of most surveys. Much of the SMBH accretion is not simultaneous, limiting the dual AGN fraction detectable through imaging and spectroscopy to a few percent, in agreement with observational samples.

Abstract

Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) have been detected in the centers of most nearby massive galaxies. Galaxies today are not only the products of billions of years of galaxy mergers, but also billions of years of SMBH activity as active galactic nuclei (AGNs) that is connected to galaxy mergers. In this context, detection of AGN pairs should be relatively common. Observationally, however, dual AGNs are scant, being just a few percent of all AGNs. In this Letter, we investigate the triggering of AGN activity in merging galaxies via a suite of high-resolution hydrodynamical simulations. We follow the dynamics and accretion onto the SMBHs as they move from separations of tens of kiloparsecs to tens of parsecs. Our resolution, cooling, and star formation implementation produce an inhomogeneous, multi-phase interstellar medium, allowing us to accurately trace star formation and accretion onto the SMBHs. We study the impact of gas content, morphology, and mass ratio, focusing on AGN activity and dynamics across a wide range of relevant conditions. We test when the two AGNs are simultaneously detectable, for how long and at which separations. We find that strong dual AGN activity occurs during the late phases of the mergers, at small separations (<1-10 kpc) below the resolution limit of most surveys. Much of the SMBH accretion is not simultaneous, limiting the dual AGN fraction detectable through imaging and spectroscopy to a few percent, in agreement with observational samples.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute for Computational Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Language:English
Date:March 2012
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 09:33
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 18:14
Publisher:IOP Publishing
ISSN:2041-8205
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/748/1/L7

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