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  1. Abstract Existing star-forming vs. active galactic nucleus (AGN) classification schemes using optical emission-line diagnostics mostly fail for low-metallicity and/or highly star-forming galaxies, missing AGN in typical z ∼ 0 dwarfs. To recover AGN in dwarfs with strong emission lines (SELs), we present a classification scheme optimizing the use of existing optical diagnostics. We use Sloan Digital Sky Survey emission-line catalogs overlapping the volume- and mass-limited REsolved Spectroscopy Of a Local VolumE (RESOLVE) and Environmental COntex (ECO) surveys to determine the AGN percentage in SEL dwarfs. Our photoionization grids show that the [O iii ]/H β versus [S ii ]/H α diagram (S ii plot) and [O iii ]/H β versus [O i ]/H α diagram (O i plot) are less metallicity sensitive and more successful in identifying dwarf AGN than the popular [O iii ]/H β versus [N ii ]/H α diagnostic (N ii plot or “BPT diagram”). We identify a new category of “star-forming AGN” (SF-AGN) classified as star-forming by the N ii plot but as AGN by the S ii and/or O i plots. Including SF-AGN, we find the z ∼ 0 AGN percentage in dwarfs with SELs to be ∼3%–16%, far exceeding most previous optical estimates (∼1%).more »The large range in our dwarf AGN percentage reflects differences in spectral fitting methodologies between catalogs. The highly complete nature of RESOLVE and ECO allows us to normalize strong emission-line galaxy statistics to the full galaxy population, reducing the dwarf AGN percentage to ∼0.6%–3.0%. The newly identified SF-AGN are mostly gas-rich dwarfs with halo mass <10 11.5 M ⊙ , where highly efficient cosmic gas accretion is expected. Almost all SF-AGN also have low metallicities ( Z ≲ 0.4 Z ⊙ ), demonstrating the advantage of our method.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  2. Abstract Current observational facilities have yet to conclusively detect 10 3 –10 4 M ⊙ intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) that fill in the evolutionary gap between seed black holes in the early universe and z ∼ 0 supermassive black holes. Dwarf galaxies present an opportunity to reveal active IMBHs amidst persistent star formation. We introduce photoionization simulations tailored to address key physical uncertainties: coincident versus noncoincident mixing of IMBH and starlight excitation, open versus closed geometries of surrounding gas clouds, and different shapes of the spectral energy distribution of active galactic nuclei (AGN). We examine possible AGN emission line diagnostics in the optical and mid-IR, and find that the diagnostics are often degenerate with respect to the investigated physical uncertainties. In spite of these setbacks, and in contrast to recent work, we are able to show that [O iii ]/H β typically remains bright for dwarf AGN powered by IMBHs down to 10 3 M ⊙ . Dwarf AGN are predicted to have inconsistent star-forming and Seyfert/LINER classifications using the most common optical diagnostics. In the mid-IR, [O iv ] 25.9 μ m and [Ar ii ] 6.98 μ m are less sensitive to physical uncertainties than are optical diagnostics.more »Based on these emission lines, we provide several diagrams of mid-IR emission line diagnostic diagrams with demarcations for separating starbursts and AGN with varying levels of activity. The diagrams are valid over a wide range of ionization parameters and metallicities out to z ∼ 0.1, so will prove useful for future JWST observations of local dwarf AGN in the search for IMBHs. We make our photoionization simulation suite freely available.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. ABSTRACT Massive black holes often exist within dwarf galaxies, and both simulations and observations have shown that a substantial fraction of these may be off-centre with respect to their hosts. We trace the evolution of off-centre massive black holes (MBHs) in dwarf galaxies using cosmological hydrodynamical simulations, and show that the reason for off-centre locations is mainly due to galaxy–galaxy mergers. We calculate dynamical time-scales and show that off-centre MBHs are unlikely to sink to their galaxys’ centres within a Hubble time, due to the shape of the hosts’ potential wells and low stellar densities. These wandering MBHs are unlikely to be detected electromagnetically, nor is there a measurable dynamical effect on the galaxy’s stellar population. We conclude that off-centre MBHs may be common in dwarfs, especially if the mass of the MBH is small or the stellar mass of the host galaxy is large. However, detecting them is extremely challenging, because their accretion luminosities are very low and they do not measurably alter the dynamics of their host galaxies.
  4. ABSTRACT Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are powered by the accretion of discs of gas on to supermassive black holes (SMBHs). Stars and stellar remnants orbiting the SMBH in the nuclear star cluster (NSC) will interact with the AGN disc. Orbiters plunging through the disc experience a drag force and, through repeated passage, can have their orbits captured by the disc. A population of embedded objects in AGN discs may be a significant source of binary black hole mergers, supernovae, tidal disruption events, and embedded gamma-ray bursts. For two representative AGN disc models, we use geometric drag and Bondi–Hoyle–Littleton drag to determine the time to capture for stars and stellar remnants. We assume a range of initial inclination angles and semimajor axes for circular Keplerian prograde orbiters. Capture time strongly depends on the density and aspect ratio of the chosen disc model, the relative velocity of the stellar object with respect to the disc, and the AGN lifetime. We expect that for an AGN disc density $\rho \gtrsim 10^{-11}{\rm g\, cm^{-3}}$ and disc lifetime ≥1 Myr, there is a significant population of embedded stellar objects, which can fuel mergers detectable in gravitational waves with LIGO-Virgo and LISA.
  5. Abstract In this paper, we continue our study on the evolution of black holes (BHs) that receive velocity kicks at the origin of their host star cluster potential. We now focus on BHs in rotating clusters that receive a range of kick velocities in different directions with respect to the rotation axis. We perform N-body simulations to calculate the trajectories of the kicked BHs and develop an analytic framework to study their motion as a function of the host cluster and the kick itself. Our simulations indicate that for a BH that is kicked outside of the cluster’s core, as its orbit decays in a rotating cluster the BH will quickly gain angular momentum as it interacts with stars with high rotational frequencies. Once the BH decays to the point where its orbital frequency equals that of local stars, its orbit will be circular and dynamical friction becomes ineffective since local stars will have low relative velocities. After circularization, the BH’s orbit decays on a longer time-scale than if the host cluster was not rotating. Hence BHs in rotating clusters will have longer orbital decay times. The time-scale for orbit circularization depends strongly on the cluster’s rotation rate and themore »initial kick velocity, with kicked BHs in slowly rotating clusters being able to decay into the core before circularization occurs. The implication of the circularization phase is that the probability of a BH undergoing a tidal capture event increases, possibly aiding in the formation of binaries and high-mass BHs.« less