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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multiwavelength Analyses of Mid-Infrared Selected Active Galactic Nuclei

  • Author(s): Lam, Anson
  • Advisor(s): Wright, Edward L
  • et al.

Traditional methods of identifying active galactic nuclei (AGNs) rely on UV and optical color criteria, but these methods exclude AGNs that are highly optically obscured by surrounding dust. This bias causes underestimates in the number of obscured AGNs in the Universe, and is problematic for our understanding of galaxy evolution and computing luminosity functions. Since much of the radiation absorbed by dust is re-radiated in the IR, mid-IR color selection provides a much more robust method of identifying AGNs that is not biased against highly dust obscured galaxies. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has provided an all-sky mid-IR survey in four passbands, and the photometry from this catalog can be used to identify AGN candidates. We select AGNs from the catalog using a WISE $W1-W2>0.8$ color cut, and perform follow-up observations with the Keck DEIMOS optical spectrograph for redshift and emission line measurements. We spectroscopically confirm that mid-IR color selection does indeed identify obscured AGNs that are missed by the largest existing optical surveys, and targeted observations are necessary to find these objects. Combining WISE data with the AKARI far-IR all-sky catalog, we also perform SED analysis to characterize the physical properties of dusty AGNs and their surrounding obscuring medium. Using only photometry, we are able to extract a number of physical properties (ex. dust temperature and masses) without the need for time and resource-intensive spectroscopy. Finally, we test the effects of using different SED and color criteria to select different populations of AGNs from the 3D-HST catalog and compute their luminosity functions. We find that SED fitting can identify a large number of AGNs that are missed by traditional color selection methods, and this can potentially increase the sample size of AGNs available for analysis by several factors.

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