Evidence for Merger-Driven Growth in Luminous, High-z, Obscured AGN in the CANDELS/COSMOS Field [GA]


While major mergers have long been proposed as a driver of both AGN activity and the M-sigma relation, studies of moderate to high redshift Seyfert-luminosity AGN hosts have found little evidence for enhanced rates of interactions. However, both theory and observation suggest that while these AGN may be fueled by stochastic accretion and secular processes, high-luminosity, high-redshift, and heavily obscured AGN are the AGN most likely to be merger-driven. To better sample this population of AGN, we turn to infrared selection in the CANDELS/COSMOS field. Compared to their lower-luminosity and less obscured X-ray-only counterparts, IR-only AGN (luminous, heavily obscured AGN) are more likely to be classified as either irregular (50$^{+12}{-12}$% vs. 9$^{+5}{-2}$%) or asymmetric (69$^{+9}{-13}$% vs. 17$^{+6}{-4}$%) and are less likely to have a spheroidal component (31$^{+13}{-9}$% vs. 77$^{+4}{-6}$%). Furthermore, IR-only AGN are also significantly more likely than X-ray-only AGN (75$^{+8}{-13}$% vs. 31$^{+6}{-6}$%) to be classified either as interacting or merging in a way that significantly disturbs the host galaxy or disturbed though not clearly interacting or merging, which potentially represents the late stages of a major merger. This suggests that while major mergers may not contribute significantly to the fueling of Seyfert luminosity AGN, interactions appear to play a more dominant role in the triggering and fueling of high-luminosity heavily obscured AGN.

Read this paper on arXiv…

J. Donley, J. Kartaltepe, D. Kocevski, et. al.
Fri, 8 Dec 17

Comments: 13 pages, 7 figures, 1 table, Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal