Bringing faint active galactic nuclei (AGNs) to light: a view from large-scale cosmological simulations

Adrian P. Schirra, Mélanie Habouzit, Ralf S. Klessen, Francesca Fornasini, Dylan Nelson, Annalisa Pillepich, Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, Romeel Davé, Francesca Civano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The sensitivity of X-ray facilities and our ability to detect fainter active galactic nuclei (AGNs) will increase with the upcoming Athena mission and the AXIS and Lynx concept missions, thus improving our understanding of supermassive black holes (BHs) in a luminosity regime that can be dominated by X-ray binaries. We analyse the population of faint AGNs (Lx, 2-10 keV} 1042 s-1) in the Illustris, TNG100, EAGLE, and SIMBA cosmological simulations, and find that the properties of their host galaxies vary from one simulation to another. In Illustris and EAGLE, faint AGNs are powered by low-mass BHs located in low-mass star-forming galaxies. In TNG100 and SIMBA, they are mostly associated with more massive BHs in quenched massive galaxies. We model the X-ray binary (XRB) populations of the simulated galaxies, and find that AGNs often dominate the galaxy AGN + XRB hard X-ray luminosity at z > 2, while XRBs dominate in some simulations at z < 2. Whether the AGN or XRB emission dominates in star-forming and quenched galaxies depends on the simulations. These differences in simulations can be used to discriminate between galaxy formation models with future high-resolution X-ray observations. We compare the luminosity of simulated faint AGN host galaxies to observations of stacked galaxies from Chandra. Our comparison indicates that the simulations post-processed with our X-ray modelling tend to overestimate the AGN + XRB X-ray luminosity; luminosity that can be strongly affected by AGN obscuration. Some simulations reveal clear AGN trends as a function of stellar mass (e.g. galaxy luminosity drop in massive galaxies), which are not apparent in the observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4816-4843
Number of pages28
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume508
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Keywords

  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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