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Open Access Publications from the University of California

AGN All the Way Down? AGN-like Line Ratios Are Common in the Lowest-mass Isolated Quiescent Galaxies

  • Author(s): Dickey, CMK
  • Geha, M
  • Wetzel, A
  • El-Badry, K
  • et al.

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© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.. We investigate the lowest-mass quiescent galaxies known to exist in isolated environments (M* = 109.0-9.5 M⊙; 1.5 Mpc from a more massive galaxy). This population may represent the lowest stellar mass galaxies in which internal feedback quenches galaxy-wide star formation. We present a Keck/Echelle Spectrograph and Imager longslit spectroscopy for 27 isolated galaxies in this regime (20 quiescent galaxies and 7 star-forming galaxies). We measure emission line strengths as a function of radius and place galaxies on the Baldwin Phillips Terlevich (BPT) diagram. Remarkably, 16 of 20 quiescent galaxies in our sample host central active galactic nucleus (AGN)- like line ratios. Only five of these quiescent galaxies were identified as AGN-like in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey due to a lower spatial resolution and signal-to-noise ratio. We find that many of the quiescent galaxies in our sample have spatially extended emission across the non-star-forming regions of BPT-space. While quenched galaxies in denser environments in this mass range often show no evidence for AGN activity, a significant fraction of quiescent galaxies in isolation host AGNs despite their overall passive appearances.

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