The OPTX Project. V. Identifying Distant Active Galactic Nuclei

Type Journal Article
Names L. Trouille, A. J. Barger, C. Tremonti
Publication The Astrophysical Journal
Volume 742
Issue 1
Pages 46
Date November 1, 2011
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract The Baldwin, Phillips, and Terlevich emission-line ratio diagnostic ([O III]/Hβ versus [N II]/Hα, hereafter BPT diagram) efficiently separates galaxies whose signal is dominated by star formation (BPT-SF) from those dominated by active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity (BPT-AGN). Yet this BPT diagram is limited to z < 0.5, the redshift at which [N II]λ6584 leaves the optical spectral window. Using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), we construct a new diagnostic, or TBT diagram, that is based on rest-frame g - z color, [Ne III]λ3869, and [O II]λλ3726 + 3729 and can be used for galaxies out to z < 1.4. The TBT diagram identifies 98.7% of the SDSS BPT-AGN as TBT-AGN and 97% of the SDSS BPT-SF as TBT-SF. Furthermore, it identifies 97% of the OPTX Chandra X-ray-selected AGNs as TBT-AGN. This is in contrast to the BPT diagram, which misidentifies 20% of X-ray-selected AGNs as BPT-SF. We use the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey North and Lockman Hole galaxy samples, with their accompanying deep Chandra imaging, to perform X-ray and infrared stacking analyses to further validate our TBT-AGN and TBT-SF selections; that is, we verify the dominance of AGN activity in the former and star formation activity in the latter. Finally, we address the inclusion of the majority of the BPT-comp (sources lying between the BPT-SF and BPT-AGN regimes) in our TBT-AGN regime. We find that the stacked BPT-comp source is X-ray hard (langΓeffrang = 1.0+0.4 -0.4) and has a high X-ray luminosity to total infrared luminosity ratio. This suggests that, on average, the X-ray signal in BPT-comp is dominated by obscured or low accretion rate AGN activity rather than by star formation, supporting their inclusion in the TBT-AGN regime. Some of the data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.
Tags X-rays: galaxies, cosmology: observations, galaxies: Seyfert, galaxies: active, galaxies: nuclei
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