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    Jetted active galactic nuclei (AGNs) are the principal extragalactic γ-ray sources. Fermi-detected high-redshift (z > 3) blazars are jetted AGNs thought to be powered by massive, rapidly spinning supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in the early universe (<2 Gyr). They provide a laboratory to study early black hole (BH) growth and super-Eddington accretion – possibly responsible for the more rapid formation of jetted BHs. However, previous virial BH masses of z > 3 blazars were based on C iv λ1549 in the observed optical, but C iv λ1549 is known to be biased by strong outflows. We present new Gemini/GNIRS near-infrared spectroscopy for a sample of nine z > 3 Fermi γ-ray blazars with available multiwavelength observations that maximally sample the spectral energy distributions (SEDs). We estimate virial BH masses based on the better calibrated broad H β and/or Mg ii λ2800. We compare the new virial BH masses against independent mass estimates from SED modelling. Our work represents the first step in campaigning for more robust virial BH masses and Eddington ratios for high-redshift Fermi blazars. Our new results confirm that high-redshift Fermi blazars indeed host overly massive SMBHs as suggested by previous work, which may pose a theoretical challenge for models of the rapid early growth of jetted SMBHs.

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    The next generation of wide-field deep astronomical surveys will deliver unprecedented amounts of images through the 2020s and beyond. As both the sensitivity and depth of observations increase, more blended sources will be detected. This reality can lead to measurement biases that contaminate key astronomical inferences. We implement new deep learning models available through Facebook AI Research’s detectron2 repository to perform the simultaneous tasks of object identification, deblending, and classification on large multiband co-adds from the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC). We use existing detection/deblending codes and classification methods to train a suite of deep neural networks, including state-of-the-art transformers. Once trained, we find that transformers outperform traditional convolutional neural networks and are more robust to different contrast scalings. Transformers are able to detect and deblend objects closely matching the ground truth, achieving a median bounding box Intersection over Union of 0.99. Using high-quality class labels from the Hubble Space Telescope, we find that when classifying objects as either stars or galaxies, the best-performing networks can classify galaxies with near 100 per cent completeness and purity across the whole test sample and classify stars above 60 per cent completeness and 80 per cent purity out to HSC i-band magnitudes of 25 mag. This framework can be extended to other upcoming deep surveys such as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time and those with the Roman Space Telescope to enable fast source detection and measurement. Our code, deepdisc, is publicly available at

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    We study the optical variability of a sample of candidate low-mass (dwarf and Seyfert) active galactic nuclei (AGNs) using Zwicky Transient Facility g-band light curves. Our sample is compiled from broad-line AGNs in dwarf galaxies reported in the literature with single-epoch virial black hole (BH) masses in the range MBH ∼ 104–108 M⊙. We measure the characteristic ‘damping’ time-scale of the optical variability τDRW, beyond which the power spectral density flattens, of a final sample of 79 candidate low-mass AGNs with high-quality light curves. Our results provide further confirmation of the MBH–τDRW relation from previous work within 1σ agreement, adding 78 new low-mass AGNs to the relation. The agreement suggests that the virial BH mass estimates for these AGNs are generally reasonable. We expect that the optical light curve of an accreting intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) to vary with a rest-frame damping time-scale of ∼tens of hours, which could enable detection and direct mass estimation of accreting IMBHs in wide-field time-domain imaging surveys with sufficient cadence like with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

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    We present a phenomenological forward Monte Carlo model for forecasting the population of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in dwarf galaxies observable via their optical variability. Our model accounts for expected changes in the spectral energy distribution of AGNs in the intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) mass range and uses observational constraints on optical variability as a function of black hole (BH) mass to generate mock light curves. Adopting several different models for the BH occupation function, including one for off-nuclear IMBHs, we quantify differences in the predicted local AGN mass and luminosity functions in dwarf galaxies. As a result, we are able to model the fraction of variable AGNs as a function of important galaxy host properties, such as host galaxy stellar mass, in the presence of selection effects. We find that our adopted occupation fractions for the ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ initial BH seeding scenarios can be distinguished with variability at the 2–3σ level for galaxy host stellar masses below ∼108M⊙ with data from the upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory. We also demonstrate the prevalence of a selection bias whereby recovered IMBH masses fall, on average, above the predicted value from the local host galaxy–BH mass scaling relation with the strength of this bias dependent on the survey sensitivity. Our methodology can be used more broadly to calibrate AGN demographic studies in synoptic surveys. Finally, we show that a targeted ∼ hourly cadence program over a few nights with the Rubin Observatory can provide strong constraints on IMBH masses given their expected rapid variability time-scales.

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  5. Abstract

    The limiting temporal resolution of a time-domain survey in detecting transient behavior is set by the time between observations of the same sky area. We analyze the distribution of visit separations for a range of Vera C. Rubin Observatory cadence simulations. Simulations from families v1.5–v1.7.1 are strongly peaked at the 22 minute visit pair separation and provide effectively no constraint on temporal evolution within the night. This choice will necessarily prevent Rubin from discovering a wide range of astrophysical phenomena in time to trigger rapid follow-up. We present a science-agnostic metric to supplement detailed simulations of fast-evolving transients and variables and suggest potential approaches for improving the range of timescales explored.

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    ABSTRACT We report on continued, ∼15-yr long, broad Balmer emission lines in three metal-poor dwarf emission-line galaxies selected from Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectroscopy. The persistent luminosity of the broad Balmer emission indicates the galaxies are active galactic nuclei (AGNs) with virial black hole masses of ∼106.7–107.0 M⊙. The lack of observed hard X-ray emission and the possibility that the Balmer emission could be due to a long-lived stellar transient motivated additional follow-up spectroscopy. We also identify a previously unreported blueshifted narrow absorption line in the broad H α feature in one of the AGNs, indicating an AGN-driven outflow with hydrogen column densities of order 1017 cm−2. We also extract light curves from the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey and the Zwicky Transient Facility. We detect probable AGN-like variability in three galaxies, further supporting the AGN scenario. This also suggests the AGNs are not strongly obscured. This sample of galaxies are among the most metal-poor that host an AGN (Z = 0.05–0.16 Z⊙). We speculate they may be analogues to seed black holes which formed in unevolved galaxies at high redshift. Given the rarity of metal-poor AGNs and small sample size available, we investigate prospects for their identification in future spectroscopic and photometric surveys. 
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  9. ABSTRACT We present a sample of 706, z < 1.5 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) selected from optical photometric variability in three of the Dark Energy Survey (DES) deep fields (E2, C3, and X3) over an area of 4.64 deg2. We construct light curves using difference imaging aperture photometry for resolved sources and non-difference imaging PSF photometry for unresolved sources, respectively, and characterize the variability significance. Our DES light curves have a mean cadence of 7 d, a 6-yr baseline, and a single-epoch imaging depth of up to g ∼ 24.5. Using spectral energy distribution (SED) fitting, we find 26 out of total 706 variable galaxies are consistent with dwarf galaxies with a reliable stellar mass estimate ($M_{\ast }\lt 10^{9.5}\, {\rm M}_\odot$; median photometric redshift of 0.9). We were able to constrain rapid characteristic variability time-scales (∼ weeks) using the DES light curves in 15 dwarf AGN candidates (a subset of our variable AGN candidates) at a median photometric redshift of 0.4. This rapid variability is consistent with their low black hole (BH) masses. We confirm the low-mass AGN nature of one source with a high S/N optical spectrum. We publish our catalogue, optical light curves, and supplementary data, such as X-ray properties and optical spectra, when available. We measure a variable AGN fraction versus stellar mass and compare to results from a forward model. This work demonstrates the feasibility of optical variability to identify AGNs with lower BH masses in deep fields, which may be more ‘pristine’ analogues of supermassive BH seeds. 
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