The VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey: the evolution of type-1 AGN

Bongiorno, Angela (2007) The VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey: the evolution of type-1 AGN, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Astronomia, 19 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/345.
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Quasars and AGN play an important role in many aspects of the modern cosmology. Of particular interest is the issue of the interplay between AGN activity and formation and evolution of galaxies and structures. Studies on nearby galaxies revealed that most (and possibly all) galaxy nuclei contain a super-massive black hole (SMBH) and that between a third and half of them are showing some evidence of activity (Kormendy and Richstone, 1995). The discovery of a tight relation between black holes mass and velocity dispersion of their host galaxy suggests that the evolution of the growth of SMBH and their host galaxy are linked together. In this context, studying the evolution of AGN, through the luminosity function (LF), is fundamental to constrain the theories of galaxy and SMBH formation and evolution. Recently, many theories have been developed to describe physical processes possibly responsible of a common formation scenario for galaxies and their central black hole (Volonteri et al., 2003; Springel et al., 2005a; Vittorini et al., 2005; Hopkins et al., 2006a) and an increasing number of observations in different bands are focused on collecting larger and larger quasar samples. Many issues remain however not yet fully understood. In the context of the VVDS (VIMOS-VLT Deep Survey), we collected and studied an unbiased sample of spectroscopically selected faint type-1 AGN with a unique and straightforward selection function. Indeed, the VVDS is a large, purely magnitude limited spectroscopic survey of faint objects, free of any morphological and/or color preselection. We studied the statistical properties of this sample and its evolution up to redshift z 4. Because of the contamination of the AGN light by their host galaxies at the faint magnitudes explored by our sample, we observed that a significant fraction of AGN in our sample would be missed by the UV excess and morphological criteria usually adopted for the pre-selection of optical QSO candidates. If not properly taken into account, this failure in selecting particular sub-classes of AGN could, in principle, affect some of the conclusions drawn from samples of AGN based on these selection criteria. The absence of any pre-selection in the VVDS leads us to have a very complete sample of AGN, including also objects with unusual colors and continuum shape. The VVDS AGN sample shows in fact redder colors than those expected by comparing it, for example, with the color track derived from the SDSS composite spectrum. In particular, the faintest objects have on average redder colors than the brightest ones. This can be attributed to both a large fraction of dust-reddened objects and a significant contamination from the host galaxy. We have tested these possibilities by examining the global spectral energy distribution of each object using, in addition to the U, B, V, R and I-band magnitudes, also the UV-Galex and the IR-Spitzer bands, and fitting it with a combination of AGN and galaxy emission, allowing also for the possibility of extinction of the AGN flux. We found that for 44% of our objects the contamination from the host galaxy is not negligible and this fraction decreases to 21% if we restrict the analysis to a bright subsample (M1450 <-22.15). Our estimated integral surface density at IAB < 24.0 is 500 AGN per square degree, which represents the highest surface density of a spectroscopically confirmed sample of optically selected AGN. We derived the luminosity function in B-band for 1.0 < z < 3.6 using the 1/Vmax estimator. Our data, more than one magnitude fainter than previous optical surveys, allow us to constrain the faint part of the luminosity function up to high redshift. A comparison of our data with the 2dF sample at low redshift (1 < z < 2.1) shows that the VDDS data can not be well fitted with the pure luminosity evolution (PLE) models derived by previous optically selected samples. Qualitatively, this appears to be due to the fact that our data suggest the presence of an excess of faint objects at low redshift (1.0 < z < 1.5) with respect to these models. By combining our faint VVDS sample with the large sample of bright AGN extracted from the SDSS DR3 (Richards et al., 2006b) and testing a number of different evolutionary models, we find that the model which better represents the combined luminosity functions, over a wide range of redshift and luminosity, is a luminosity dependent density evolution (LDDE) model, similar to those derived from the major Xsurveys. Such a parameterization allows the redshift of the AGN density peak to change as a function of luminosity, thus fitting the excess of faint AGN that we find at 1.0 < z < 1.5. On the basis of this model we find, for the first time from the analysis of optically selected samples, that the peak of the AGN space density shifts significantly towards lower redshift going to lower luminosity objects. The position of this peak moves from z 2.0 for MB <-26.0 to z 0.65 for -22< MB <-20. This result, already found in a number of X-ray selected samples of AGN, is consistent with a scenario of “AGN cosmic downsizing”, in which the density of more luminous AGN, possibly associated to more massive black holes, peaks earlier in the history of the Universe (i.e. at higher redshift), than that of low luminosity ones, which reaches its maximum later (i.e. at lower redshift). This behavior has since long been claimed to be present in elliptical galaxies and it is not easy to reproduce it in the hierarchical cosmogonic scenario, where more massive Dark Matter Halos (DMH) form on average later by merging of less massive halos.

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Tesi di dottorato
Bongiorno, Angela
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
11 Aprile 2007

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