Kiloparsec-scale dual active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are active supermassive black hole (SMBH) pairs co-rotating in galaxies with separations of less than a few kpc. Dual AGNs are expected to be a generic outcome of hierarchical galaxy formation, but their frequency and demographics remain uncertain. We have carried out an imaging survey with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) of AGNs with double-peaked narrow [O III] emission lines to systematically identify kpc dual AGNs. HST/WFC3 offers high image quality in the near infrared (NIR) to resolve the two stellar nuclei and in the optical to resolve [O III] from ionized gas in the narrow-line regions, both expected to be associated with the two SMBHs. This combination has proven to be key in sorting out alternative scenarios. With HST/WFC3 we are able to explore a new population of close dual AGNs at more advanced merger stages than can be probed from the ground. Here we report the discovery of a dual AGN with a projected angular separation of 0.”4 in the minor galaxy merger SDSS J0924+0510 at redshift z = 0.1495, corresponding to a projected physical separation of r_p = 1 kpc. This serves as a proof of concept for combining high-resolution NIR and optical imaging to identify close dual AGNs. Our result suggests that studies based on low-resolution and/or low-sensitivity observations may miss close dual AGNs and thereby may underestimate their occurrence rate on <~ kpc scales.
X. Liu, H. Guo, Y. Shen, et. al.
Thu, 7 Dec 17
Comments: 11 pages, 8 figures, submitted to AAS journals; comments welcome