A high energy perspective of the co-evolution of black holes and their host galaxies

Civano, Francesca Maria (2007) A high energy perspective of the co-evolution of black holes and their host galaxies, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Astronomia, 19 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/351.
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Thanks to the Chandra and XMM–Newton surveys, the hard X-ray sky is now probed down to a flux limit where the bulk of the X-ray background is almost completely resolved into discrete sources, at least in the 2–8 keV band. Extensive programs of multiwavelength follow-up observations showed that the large majority of hard X–ray selected sources are identified with Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) spanning a broad range of redshifts, luminosities and optical properties. A sizable fraction of relatively luminous X-ray sources hosting an active, presumably obscured, nucleus would not have been easily recognized as such on the basis of optical observations because characterized by “peculiar” optical properties. In my PhD thesis, I will focus the attention on the nature of two classes of hard X-ray selected “elusive” sources: those characterized by high X-ray-to-optical flux ratios and red optical-to-near-infrared colors, a fraction of which associated with Type 2 quasars, and the X-ray bright optically normal galaxies, also known as XBONGs. In order to characterize the properties of these classes of elusive AGN, the datasets of several deep and large-area surveys have been fully exploited. The first class of “elusive” sources is characterized by X-ray-to-optical flux ratios (X/O) significantly higher than what is generally observed from unobscured quasars and Seyfert galaxies. The properties of well defined samples of high X/O sources detected at bright X–ray fluxes suggest that X/O selection is highly efficient in sampling high–redshift obscured quasars. At the limits of deep Chandra surveys (∼10−16 erg cm−2 s−1), high X/O sources are generally characterized by extremely faint optical magnitudes, hence their spectroscopic identification is hardly feasible even with the largest telescopes. In this framework, a detailed investigation of their X-ray properties may provide useful information on the nature of this important component of the X-ray source population. The X-ray data of the deepest X-ray observations ever performed, the Chandra deep fields, allows us to characterize the average X-ray properties of the high X/O population. The results of spectral analysis clearly indicate that the high X/O sources represent the most obscured component of the X–ray background. Their spectra are harder (G ∼ 1) than any other class of sources in the deep fields and also of the XRB spectrum (G ≈ 1.4). In order to better understand the AGN physics and evolution, a much better knowledge of the redshift, luminosity and spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of elusive AGN is of paramount importance. The recent COSMOS survey provides the necessary multiwavelength database to characterize the SEDs of a statistically robust sample of obscured sources. The combination of high X/O and red-colors offers a powerful tool to select obscured luminous objects at high redshift. A large sample of X-ray emitting extremely red objects (R−K >5) has been collected and their optical-infrared properties have been studied. In particular, using an appropriate SED fitting procedure, the nuclear and the host galaxy components have been deconvolved over a large range of wavelengths and ptical nuclear extinctions, black hole masses and Eddington ratios have been estimated. It is important to remark that the combination of hard X-ray selection and extreme red colors is highly efficient in picking up highly obscured, luminous sources at high redshift. Although the XBONGs do not present a new source population, the interest on the nature of these sources has gained a renewed attention after the discovery of several examples from recent Chandra and XMM–Newton surveys. Even though several possibilities were proposed in recent literature to explain why a relatively luminous (LX = 1042 − 1043erg s−1) hard X-ray source does not leave any significant signature of its presence in terms of optical emission lines, the very nature of XBONGs is still subject of debate. Good-quality photometric near-infrared data (ISAAC/VLT) of 4 low-redshift XBONGs from the HELLAS2XMMsurvey have been used to search for the presence of the putative nucleus, applying the surface-brightness decomposition technique. In two out of the four sources, the presence of a nuclear weak component hosted by a bright galaxy has been revealed. The results indicate that moderate amounts of gas and dust, covering a large solid angle (possibly 4p) at the nuclear source, may explain the lack of optical emission lines. A weak nucleus not able to produce suffcient UV photons may provide an alternative or additional explanation. On the basis of an admittedly small sample, we conclude that XBONGs constitute a mixed bag rather than a new source population. When the presence of a nucleus is revealed, it turns out to be mildly absorbed and hosted by a bright galaxy.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Civano, Francesca Maria
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
11 Aprile 2007

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