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The Evolution of AGN Activity in Brightest Cluster Galaxies

Presentation #107.32 in the session “ISM/Galaxies/Clusters (Poster)”.

Published onApr 01, 2022
The Evolution of AGN Activity in Brightest Cluster Galaxies

In this talk, I will present the results of an analysis of Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observations on the full 2500 deg2 South Pole Telescope (SPT)-SZ cluster sample. I will describe a process for identifying active galactic nuclei (AGN) in brightest cluster galaxies (BCGs) based on WISE mid-infrared color and redshift. Applying this technique to the BCGs of the SPT-SZ sample, we calculate the AGN-hosting BCG fraction, which is defined as the fraction of BCGs hosting bright central AGNs over all possible BCGs. Assuming a single-burst stellar population model, I find statistically significant evidence for a mid-IR excess at high redshift compared to low redshift, suggesting that the fraction of AGN-hosting BCGs increases with redshift over the range of 0 < z < 1.3. One way to explain this result is that member galaxies at high redshift tend to have more cold gas. While BCGs in nearby galaxy clusters grow mostly by dry mergers with cluster members, leading to no increase in AGN activity, BCGs at high redshift could primarily merge with gas-rich satellites, providing fuel for feeding AGNs. Lastly, this work confirms that the runaway cooling phase, as predicted by the classical cooling flow model, in the Phoenix cluster is extremely rare and most BCGs have low (relative to Eddington) black hole accretion rates.


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