We present the results of a 5-8μm spectral analysis performed on the largest sample of local ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) selected so far, consisting of 164 objects up to a redshift of ~0.35. The unprecedented sensitivity of the Infrared Spectrograph onboard Spitzer allowed us to develop an effective diagnostic method to quantify the active galactic nucleus (AGN) and starburst (SB) contribution to this class of objects. The large AGN over SB brightness ratio at 5-8μm and the sharp difference between the spectral properties of AGN and SB galaxies in this wavelength range make it possible to detect even faint or obscured nuclear activity, and disentangle its emission from that of star formation. By defining a simple model we are also able to estimate the intrinsic bolometric corrections for both the AGN and SB components, and obtain the relative AGN/SB contribution to the total luminosity of each source. Our main results are the following. (1) The AGN detection rate among local ULIRGs amounts up to 70 per cent, with 113/164 convincing detections within our sample, while the global AGN/SB power balance is ~1/3. (2) A general agreement is found with optical classification; however, among the objects with no spectral signatures of nuclear activity, our IR diagnostics find a subclass of elusive, highly obscured AGN. (3) We analyse the correlation between nuclear activity and IR luminosity, recovering the well-known trend of growing AGN significance as a function of the overall energy output of the system: the sources exclusively powered by star formation are mainly found at LIR < 1012.3 Lsolar, while the average AGN contribution rises from ~10 to ~60 per cent across the ULIRG luminosity range. (4) From a morphological point of view, we confirm that the AGN content is larger in compact systems, but the link between activity and evolutionary stage is rather loose. (5) By analysing a control sample of IR-luminous galaxies around z ~ 1, we find evidence for only minor changes with redshift of the large-scale spectral properties of the AGN and SB components. This underlines the potential of our method as a straightforward and quantitative AGN/SB diagnostic tool for ULIRG-like systems at high redshift as well, and hints to possible photometric variants for fainter sources.

The role of nuclear activity as the power source of ultraluminous infrared galaxies / Nardini, E.; Risaliti, G.; Watabe, Y.; Salvati, M.; Sani, E.. - In: MONTHLY NOTICES OF THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY. - ISSN 1365-2966. - ELETTRONICO. - 405:(2010), pp. 2505-2520. [10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16618.x]

The role of nuclear activity as the power source of ultraluminous infrared galaxies

Nardini, E.;Risaliti, G.;
2010

Abstract

We present the results of a 5-8μm spectral analysis performed on the largest sample of local ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) selected so far, consisting of 164 objects up to a redshift of ~0.35. The unprecedented sensitivity of the Infrared Spectrograph onboard Spitzer allowed us to develop an effective diagnostic method to quantify the active galactic nucleus (AGN) and starburst (SB) contribution to this class of objects. The large AGN over SB brightness ratio at 5-8μm and the sharp difference between the spectral properties of AGN and SB galaxies in this wavelength range make it possible to detect even faint or obscured nuclear activity, and disentangle its emission from that of star formation. By defining a simple model we are also able to estimate the intrinsic bolometric corrections for both the AGN and SB components, and obtain the relative AGN/SB contribution to the total luminosity of each source. Our main results are the following. (1) The AGN detection rate among local ULIRGs amounts up to 70 per cent, with 113/164 convincing detections within our sample, while the global AGN/SB power balance is ~1/3. (2) A general agreement is found with optical classification; however, among the objects with no spectral signatures of nuclear activity, our IR diagnostics find a subclass of elusive, highly obscured AGN. (3) We analyse the correlation between nuclear activity and IR luminosity, recovering the well-known trend of growing AGN significance as a function of the overall energy output of the system: the sources exclusively powered by star formation are mainly found at LIR < 1012.3 Lsolar, while the average AGN contribution rises from ~10 to ~60 per cent across the ULIRG luminosity range. (4) From a morphological point of view, we confirm that the AGN content is larger in compact systems, but the link between activity and evolutionary stage is rather loose. (5) By analysing a control sample of IR-luminous galaxies around z ~ 1, we find evidence for only minor changes with redshift of the large-scale spectral properties of the AGN and SB components. This underlines the potential of our method as a straightforward and quantitative AGN/SB diagnostic tool for ULIRG-like systems at high redshift as well, and hints to possible photometric variants for fainter sources.
2010
405
2505
2520
Nardini, E.; Risaliti, G.; Watabe, Y.; Salvati, M.; Sani, E.
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Utilizza questo identificatore per citare o creare un link a questa risorsa: https://hdl.handle.net/2158/1190321
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