AGNs and Their Host Galaxies in the Local Universe: Two Mass-independent Eddington Ratio Distribution Functions Characterize Black Hole Growth

Anna K. Weigel, Kevin Schawinski, Neven Caplar, O. Ivy Wong, Ezequiel Treister, Benny Trakhtenbrot

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18 Citations (Scopus)


We use a phenomenological model to show that black hole growth in the local universe (z less than or similar to 0.1) can be described by two separate, mass-independent Eddington ratio distribution functions (ERDFs). We assume that black holes can be divided into two independent groups: those with radiatively efficient accretion, primarily hosted by optically blue and green galaxies, and those with radiatively inefficient accretion, which are mainly found in red galaxies. With observed galaxy stellar mass functions as input, we show that the observed active galactic nucleus (AGN) luminosity functions can be reproduced by using mass-independent, broken power-law-shaped ERDFs. We use the observed hard X-ray and 1.4 GHz radio luminosity functions to constrain the ERDF for radiatively efficient and inefficient AGNs, respectively. We also test alternative ERDF shapes and mass-dependent models. Our results are consistent with a mass-independent AGN fraction and AGN hosts being randomly drawn from the galaxy population. We argue that the ERDF is not shaped by galaxy-scale effects, but by how efficiently material can be transported from the inner few parsecs to the accretion disc. Our results are incompatible with the simplest form of mass quenching where massive galaxies host higher accretion rate AGNs. Furthermore, if reaching a certain Eddington ratio is a sufficient condition for maintenance mode, it can occur in all red galaxies, not just the most massive ones.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
Number of pages33
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal: an international review of astronomy and astronomical physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2017

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