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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Multi-wavelength Analysis of Active Galactic Nuclei and Host Galaxies Physical Properties

  • Author(s): Azadi, Mojegan
  • Advisor(s): Coil, Alison L
  • et al.

In this dissertation we study the properties of active galactic nuclei (AGN), which are powered by the accretion activity of supermassive black holes residing at the centers of galaxies. While observations propose that growth of AGN and galaxies are globally tied, we investigate whether this connection exists in individual galaxies. We also investigate various AGN selection techniques and star formation rate (SFR) estimates using multi-wavelength data from Chandra, Spitzer and rest-frame optical spectra from the Keck telescope.

We find that combining multi-wavelength identification techniques provides a more complete AGN sample, as each selection method suffers from selection biases. In particular, all selection techniques are biased against identifying AGN in lower mass galaxies. Once stellar mass selection biases are taken into account, we find that AGN reside in galaxies with similar physical properties (i.e., SFR) as inactive galaxies.

We find that while AGN are prevalent in both star-forming and quiescent galaxies, AGN of a given accretion rate are more likely to reside in star-forming galaxies. The probability of fueling an AGN does not strongly depend on SFR for a star-forming galaxy, though it decreases when star formation is shut down in quiescent galaxies. We also find no evidence for a strong correlation between SFR or stellar mass of the host galaxy and AGN luminosity. These results indicate that while both AGN and galaxy growth are reliant on the same fuel, enhanced star formation activity does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with increased AGN activity. While the star formation activity of galaxies can be traced with various indicators, our investigations indicate that extrapolations from mid-infrared data using calibrations based on local galaxies overestimates SFRs at higher redshift. We show that a combina- tion of mid-infrared and far-infrared data provide a more reliable SFR estimation than the mid-infrared data alone. We also find that the robustness of UV-based SFRs depends on the extinction correction method used. We find a relatively small fraction of z ∼ 2 galaxies have SFRs from infrared observations that are elevated relative to other SFR tracers, and we do not find any contribution from AGN in this excess.

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