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  1. Abstract

    The discovery over the last several decades of low- and moderate-luminosity active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in disk-dominated galaxies—which show no “classical” bulges—suggests that secular mechanisms represent an important growth pathway for supermassive black holes in these systems. We present new follow-up NuSTAR observations of the optically elusive AGNs in two bulgeless galaxies, NGC 4178 and J0851+3926. Galaxy NGC 4178 was originally reported as hosting an AGN based on the detection of [Nev] mid-infrared emission detected by Spitzer, and based on Chandra X-ray imaging, it has since been argued to host either a heavily obscured AGN or a supernova remnant. Galaxy J0851+3926 was originally identified as an AGN based on its Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer mid-IR colors, and follow-up near-infrared spectroscopy previously revealed a hidden broad-line region, offering compelling evidence for an optically elusive AGN. Neither AGN is detected within the new NuSTAR imaging, and we derive upper limits on the hard X-ray 10–24 keV fluxes of <7.41 × 10−14and <9.40 × 10−14erg cm−2s−1for the AGNs in NGC 4178 and J0851+3926, respectively. If these nondetections are due to large absorbing columns along the line of sight, the nondetections in NGC 4178 and J0851+3926 could be explained with column densities of log(NH/cm2) > 24.2 and 24.1, respectively. The nature of the nuclear activity in NGC 4178 remains inconclusive; it is plausible that the [Nev] traces a period of higher activity in the past, but that the AGN is relatively quiescent now. The nondetection in J0851+3926 and multiwavelength properties are consistent with the AGN being heavily obscured.

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    Post-starburst galaxies (PSBs) are transition galaxies showing evidence of recent rapid star formation quenching. To understand the role of galaxy mergers in triggering quenching, we investigate the incidence of PSBs and resolved PSB properties in post-merger galaxies using both SDSS single-fibre spectra and MaNGA resolved IFU spectra. We find post-mergers have a PSB excess of 10–20 times that relative to their control galaxies using single-fibre PSB diagnostics. A similar excess of ∼ 19 times is also found in the fraction of central (C)PSBs and ring-like (R)PSBs in post-mergers using the resolved PSB diagnostic. However, 60 per cent of the CPSBs + RPSBs in both post-mergers and control galaxies are missed by the single-fibre data. By visually inspecting the resolved PSB distribution, we find that the fraction of outside-in quenching is seven times higher than inside-out quenching in PSBs in post-mergers while PSBs in control galaxies do not show large differences in these quenching directions. In addition, we find a marginal deficit of H i gas in PSBs relative to non-PSBs in post-mergers using the MaNGA-H i data. The excesses of PSBs in post-mergers suggest that mergers play an important role in triggering quenching. Resolved IFU spectra are important to recover the PSBs missed by single-fibre spectra. The excess of outside-in quenching relative to inside-out quenching in post-mergers suggests that AGNs are not the dominant quenching mechanism in these galaxies, but that processes from the disc (gas inflows/consumption and stellar feedback) play a more important role.

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  3. Abstract

    Local low-metallicity dwarf galaxies are relics of the early universe and are thought to hold clues into the origins of supermassive black holes. While recent studies are uncovering a growing population of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in dwarf galaxies, the vast majority reside in galaxies with solar or supersolar metallicities and stellar masses comparable to that of the LMC. Using Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) and Very Large Telescope observations, we report the detection of [Fex]λ6374 coronal line emission and a broad Hαline in the nucleus of SDSS J094401.87−003832.1, a nearby (z= 0.0049) metal-poor dwarf galaxy almost 500 times less massive than the LMC. Unlike the emission from the lower-ionization nebular lines, the [Fex]λ6374 emission is compact and centered on the brightest nuclear source, with a spatial extent of ≈100 pc, similar to that seen in well-known AGNs. The [Fex] luminosity is ≈1037erg s−1, within the range seen in previously identified AGNs in the dwarf-galaxy population. The [Fex] emission has persisted over the roughly 19 yr time period between the SDSS and MUSE observations, ruling out supernovae as the origin for the emission. The FWHM of the broad component of the Hαline is 446 ± 17 km s−1and its luminosity is ≈1.5 × 1038erg s−1, corresponding to a black hole mass of ≈ 3150M, in line with its stellar mass if virial mass relations and black hole–galaxy scaling relations apply in this mass regime. These observations, together with previously reported multiwavelength observations, can most plausibly be explained by the presence of an accreting intermediate-mass black hole in a primordial galaxy analog.

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  4. Abstract

    We investigate the role of galaxy mergers in triggering active galactic nuclei (AGN) in the nearby universe. Our analysis is based on a sample of 79 post-merger remnant galaxies with deep X-ray observations from Chandra/XMM-Newton capable of detecting a low-luminosity AGN of ≥1040.5erg s−1. This sample is derived from a visually classified, volume-limited sample of 807 post-mergers identified in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 14 with logM*/M≥ 10.5 and 0.02 ≤z≤ 0.06. We find that the X-ray AGN fraction in this sample is 55.7% ± 5.6% compared to 23.6% ± 2.8% for a mass- and redshift-matched noninteracting control sample. The multiwavelength AGN fraction (identified as an AGN in one of X-ray, IR, radio or optical diagnostics) for post-mergers is 76.6% ± 4.8% compared to 39.1% ± 3.2% for controls. Thus post-mergers exhibit a high overall AGN fraction with an excess between 2 and 4 depending on the AGN diagnostics used. In addition, we find most optical, IR, and radio AGN are also identified as X-ray AGN while a large fraction of X-ray AGN are not identified in any other diagnostic. This highlights the importance of deep X-ray imaging to identify AGN. We find that the X-ray AGN fraction of post-mergers is independent of the stellar mass above logM*/M≥ 10.5 unlike the trend seen in control galaxies. Overall, our results show that post-merger galaxies are a good tracer of the merger–AGN connection and strongly support the theoretical expectations that mergers trigger AGN.

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  5. Abstract

    While it is generally believed that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) lie in most galaxies with bulges, few SMBHs have been confirmed in bulgeless galaxies. Identifying such a population could provide important insights to the BH seed population and secular BH growth. To this end, we obtained near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopic observations of a sample of low-redshift bulgeless galaxies with mid-infrared colors suggestive of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). We find additional evidence of AGN activity (such as coronal lines and broad permitted lines) in 69% (9/13) of the sample, demonstrating that mid-infrared selection is a powerful tool to detect AGNs. More than half of the galaxies with confirmed AGN activity show fast outflows in [Oiii] in the optical and/or [Sivi] in the NIR, with the latter generally having much faster velocities that are also correlated to their spatial extent. We are also able to obtain virial BH masses for some targets and find they fall within the scatter of other late-type galaxies in theMBHMstellarrelation. The fact that they lack a significant bulge component indicates that secular processes, likely independent of major mergers, grew these BHs to supermassive sizes. Finally, we analyze the rotational gas kinematics and find two notable exceptions: two AGN hosts with outflows that appear to be rotating faster than expected. There is an indication that these two galaxies have stellar masses significantly lower than expected from their dark matter halo masses. This, combined with the observed AGN activity and strong gas outflows, may be evidence of the effects of AGN feedback.

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    Powerful outflows are thought to play a critical role in galaxy evolution and black hole growth. We present the first large-scale systematic study of ionized outflows in paired galaxies and post-mergers compared to a robust control sample of isolated galaxies. We isolate the impact of the merger environment to determine if outflow properties depend on merger stage. Our sample contains ∼4000 paired galaxies and ∼250 post-mergers in the local universe (0.02 ≤ z ≤ 0.2) from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 7 (SDSS DR 7) matched in stellar mass, redshift, local density of galaxies, and [O iii] λ5007 luminosity to a control sample of isolated galaxies. By fitting the [O iii] λ5007 line, we find ionized outflows in ∼15 per cent of our entire sample. Outflows are much rarer in star-forming galaxies compared to active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and outflow incidence and velocity increase with [O iii] λ5007 luminosity. Outflow incidence is significantly elevated in the optical + mid-infrared selected AGN compared to purely optical AGN; over 60 per cent show outflows at the highest luminosities ($L_{\mathrm{[OIII]~\lambda 5007}}\, \gtrsim$ 1042 erg s−1), suggesting mid-infrared AGN selection favours galaxies with powerful outflows, at least for higher [O iii] λ5007 luminosities. However, we find no statistically significant difference in outflow incidence, velocity, and luminosity in mergers compared to isolated galaxies, and there is no dependence on merger stage. Therefore, while interactions are predicted to drive gas inflows and subsequently trigger nuclear star formation and accretion activity, when the power source of the outflow is controlled for, the merging environment has no further impact on the large-scale ionized outflows as traced by [O iii] λ5007.

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  7. Abstract Galaxy mergers are predicted to trigger accretion onto the central supermassive black holes, with the highest rates occurring during final coalescence. Previously, we have shown elevated rates of both optical and mid-IR selected active galactic nuclei (AGN) in post-mergers, but to date the prevalence of X-ray AGN has not been examined in the same systematic way. We present XMM-Newton data of 43 post-merger galaxies selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey along with 430 non-interacting control galaxies matched in stellar mass, redshift, and environment in order to test for an excess of hard X-ray (2–10 keV) emission in post-mergers attributable to triggered AGN. We find 2 X-ray detections in the post-mergers ($4.7^{+9.3}_{-3.8}\%$) and 9 in the controls ($2.1^{+1.5}_{-1.0}\%$), an excess of $2.22^{+4.44}_{-2.22}$, where the confidence intervals are 90%. While we therefore do not find statistically significant evidence for an X-ray AGN excess in post-mergers (p = 0.26), we find a factor of ∼17 excess of mid-IR AGN in our sample, consistent with past work and inconsistent with the observed X-ray excess (p = 2.7 × 10−4). Dominant, luminous AGN are therefore more frequent in post-mergers, and the lack of a comparable excess of 2–10 keV X-ray AGN suggests that AGN in post-mergers are more likely to be heavily obscured. Our results are consistent with the post-merger stage being characterised by enhanced AGN fueling, heavy AGN obscuration, and more intrinsically luminous AGN, in line with theoretical predictions. 
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  8. null (Ed.)