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Title: NOEMA Detection of Circumnuclear Molecular Gas in X-Ray Weak Dual Active Galactic Nuclei: No Evidence for Heavy Obscuration

Dual active galactic nuclei (AGNs), which are the manifestation of two actively accreting supermassive black holes (SMBHs) hosted by a pair of merging galaxies, are a unique laboratory for studying the physics of SMBH feeding and feedback during an indispensable stage of galaxy evolution. In this work, we present NOEMA CO(2–1) observations of seven kiloparsec-scale dual-AGN candidates drawn from a recent Chandra survey of low redshift, optically classified AGN pairs. These systems are selected because they show unexpectedly low 2–10 keV X-ray luminosities for their small physical separations signifying an intermediate-to-late stage of merger. Circumnuclear molecular gas traced by the CO(2–1) emission is significantly detected in six of the seven pairs and 10 of the 14 nuclei, with an estimated mass ranging between (0.2–21) × 109M. The primary nuclei, i.e., the ones with the higher stellar velocity dispersion, tend to have a higher molecular gas mass than the secondary. Most CO-detected nuclei show a compact morphology, with a velocity field consistent with a kiloparsec-scale rotating structure. The inferred hydrogen column densities range between 5 × 1021–2 × 1023cm−2, but mostly at a few times 1022cm−2, in broad agreement with those derived from X-ray spectral analysis. Together with the relatively weak mid-infrared emission, the moderate column density argues against the prevalence of heavily obscured, intrinsically luminous AGNs in these seven systems, but favors a feedback scenario in which AGN activity triggered by a recent pericentric passage of the galaxy pair can expel circumnuclear gas and suppress further SMBH accretion.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.3847
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Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Medium: X Size: Article No. 50
["Article No. 50"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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