Buried AGNs in Advanced Mergers: Mid-infrared Color Selection as a Dual AGN Candidate Finder
Secrest, Nathan J.
Ellison, Sara L.
AffiliationUniv Arizona, LBT Observ
Keywordsblack hole physics
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherIOP PUBLISHING LTD
CitationBuried AGNs in Advanced Mergers: Mid-infrared Color Selection as a Dual AGN Candidate Finder 2017, 848 (2):126 The Astrophysical Journal
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Rights© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AbstractA direct consequence of hierarchical galaxy formation is the existence of dual supermassive black holes, which may be preferentially triggered as active galactic nuclei (AGNs) during galaxy mergers. Despite decades of searching, however, dual AGNs are extremely rare, and most have been discovered serendipitously. Using the all-sky WISE survey, we identified a population of over 100 morphologically identified interacting galaxies or mergers that display red mid-infrared colors often associated in extragalactic sources with powerful AGNs. The vast majority of these advanced mergers are optically classified as star-forming galaxies, which suggests that they may represent an obscured population of AGNs that cannot be found through optical studies. In this work, we present Chandra/ACIS observations and near-infrared spectra with the Large Binocular Telescope of six advanced mergers with projected pair separations less than similar to 10 kpc. The combined X-ray, near-infrared, and mid-infrared properties of these mergers provide confirmation that four out of the six mergers host at least one AGN, with four of the mergers possibly hosting dual AGNs with projected separations less than similar to 10 kpc, despite showing no firm evidence for AGNs based on optical spectroscopic studies. Our results demonstrate that (1) optical studies miss a significant fraction of single and dual AGNs in advanced mergers, and (2) mid-infrared pre-selection is extremely effective in identifying dual AGN candidates in late-stage mergers. Our multi-wavelength observations suggest that the buried AGNs in these mergers are highly absorbed, with intrinsic column densities in excess of similar to N-H > 10(24) cm(-2), consistent with hydrodynamic simulations.
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsNASA [G01-12126X]; Mason 4-VA grant; JMU; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science; National Auronautics and Space Administration; Naval Research Laboratory; Office of Naval Research
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