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Survival of the Obscuring Torus in the Most Powerful Active Galactic Nuclei

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journal contribution
posted on 29.11.2017, 10:40 by S. Mateos, F. J. Carrera, X. Barcons, A. Alonso-Herrero, A. Hernan-Caballero, M. Page, C. Ramos Almeida, A. Caccianiga, T. Miyaji, A. Blain
Dedicated searches generally find a decreasing fraction of obscured active galactic nuclei (AGN) with increasing AGN luminosity. This has often been interpreted as evidence for a decrease of the covering factor of the AGN torus with increasing luminosity, the so-called receding torus models. Using a complete flux-limited X-ray selected sample of 199 AGN, from the Bright Ultra-hard XMM-Newton Survey, we determine the intrinsic fraction of optical type-2 AGN at 0.05 <= z <= 1 as a function of rest-frame 2–10 keV X-ray luminosity from 10^42 to 10^45 erg s^-1. We use the distributions of covering factors of AGN tori derived from CLUMPY torus models. Since these distributions combined over the total AGN population need to match the intrinsic type-2 AGN fraction, we reveal a population of X-ray undetected objects with high-covering factor tori, which are increasingly numerous at higher AGN luminosities. When these "missing" objects are included, we find that Compton-thick AGN account at most for 37(+9)(-10)% of the total population. The intrinsic type-2 AGN fraction is 58 ± 4% and has a weak, non-significant (less than 2σ) luminosity dependence. This contradicts the results generally reported by AGN surveys and the expectations from receding torus models. Our findings imply that the majority of luminous rapidly accreting supermassive black holes at z <=1 reside in highly obscured nuclear environments, but most of them are so deeply embedded that they have so far escaped detection in X-rays in <10 keV wide area surveys.


S.M. acknowledges financial support through grant AYA2016-76730-P. (MINECO/FEDER). F.J.C., X.B., and A.A.-H. acknowledge financial support through grant AYA2015-64346-C2-1-P (MINECO/FEDER). A.H.-C. acknowledges financial support through grants AYA2015-70815-ERC and AYA2012-31277. C.R.A. acknowledges financial support through grant AYA2016-76682-C3-2-P and the Ramón y Cajal Program through project RYC-2014-15779 (MINECO). T.M. is supported by CONACyT Grants 179662, 252531 and UNAM-DGAPA PAPIIT IN104216. Based on observations collected at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern hemisphere, Chile. Based on observations made with the William Herschel Telescope-operated by the Isaac Newton Group, the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo-operated by the Centro Galileo Galilei, and the Gran Telescopio Canarias installed in the Spanish Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.



Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2017, 841 (2)

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/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Physics and Astronomy


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Astrophysical Journal Letters


American Astronomical Society, IOP Publishing





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