AGN-host connection at 0.5 <z <2.5: A rapid evolution of AGN fraction in red galaxies during the last 10 Gyr

Tao Wang, D. Elbaz, D. M. Alexander, J. M. Gabor, S. Juneau, C. Schreiber, X. Z. Zheng, S. Wuyts, E. Daddi, X. W. Shu, G. W. Fang, Q. S. Gu

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We explore the dependence of the incidence of moderate-luminosity (L0.5-8 keV = 1041.9-43.7 erg s-1) active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and the distribution of their accretion rates on host color at 0.5 ∗ > 1010 M. We use extinction-corrected rest-frame U-V colors to divide both AGN hosts and non-AGN galaxies into red sequence (red), green valley (green), and blue cloud (blue) populations. We find that the fraction of galaxies hosting an AGN at fixed X-ray luminosity increases with stellar mass and redshift for all the three galaxy populations, independent of their colors. However, both the AGN fraction at fixed stellar mass and its evolution with redshift are clearly dependent on host colors. Most notably, red galaxies have the lowest AGN fraction (∼5%) at z ∼ 1 yet with most rapid evolution with redshift, increasing by a factor of ∼5 (24%) at z ∼ 2. Green galaxies exhibit the highest AGN fraction across all redshifts, which is most pronounced at z ∼ 2 with more than half of them hosting an AGN at M > 1010.6 M. Together with the high AGN fraction in red galaxies at z ∼ 2, this indicates that (X-ray) AGNs could be important in both transforming (quenching) star-forming galaxies into quiescent ones and subsequently maintaining their quiescence at high redshift. Furthermore, consistent with previous studies at lower redshifts, we show that the probability of hosting an AGN for the total galaxy population can be characterized by a universal Eddington ratio (as approximated by LX/M) distribution (p(λEdd) ∼ λEdd -0.4), which is independent on host mass. Yet consistent with their different AGN fractions, galaxies with different colors appear to also have different p(λEdd) with red galaxies exhibiting more rapid redshift evolution compared with that for green and blue galaxies. Evidence for a steeper power-law distribution of p(λEdd) in red galaxies (p(λEdd) ∼ λEdd -0.6) is also presented, though larger samples are needed to confirm. These results suggest that the AGN accretion or the growth of supermassive black holes is related to their host properties, and may also influence their hosts in a different mode dependent on the host color.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA63
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: star formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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