Evidence for widespread active galactic nucleus activity among massive quiescent galaxies at z ∼ 2

  • Olsen K
  • Rasmussen J
  • Toft S
 et al. 
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We quantify the presence of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in a mass-complete (M * > 5 × 1010 M ⊙) sample of 123 star-forming and quiescent galaxies at 1.5 3 × 1042 erg s-1). The latter fraction is similar for star-forming and quiescent galaxies, and does not depend on galaxy stellar mass, suggesting that perhaps luminous AGNs are triggered by external effects such as mergers. We detect significant mean X-ray signals in stacked images for both the individually non-detected star-forming and quiescent galaxies, with spectra consistent with star formation only and/or a low-luminosity AGN in both cases. Comparing star formation rates inferred from the 2-10 keV luminosities to those from rest-frame IR+UV emission, we find evidence for an X-ray excess indicative of low-luminosity AGNs. Among the quiescent galaxies, the excess suggests that as many as 70%-100% of these contain low- or high-luminosity AGNs, while the corresponding fraction is lower among star-forming galaxies (43%-65%). Our discovery of the ubiquity of AGNs in massive, quiescent z ~ 2 galaxies provides observational support for the importance of AGNs in impeding star formation during galaxy evolution.

Author-supplied keywords

  • X-rays: galaxies
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: high-redshift
  • galaxies: star formation
  • infrared: galaxies

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  • Karen P. Olsen

  • Jesper Rasmussen

  • Sune Toft

  • Andrew W. Zirm

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