Hundreds of Low-mass Active Galaxies in the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) Survey

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American Astronomical Society


We present an entirely new sample of 388 low-mass galaxies (M ⋆ ≤ 1010 M ⊙) that have spectroscopic signatures indicating the presence of massive black holes (BHs) in the form of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) or tidal disruption events. Of these, 70 have stellar masses in the dwarf galaxy regime with 108 ≲ M ⋆/M ⊙ ≲ 109.5. We identify the active galaxies by analyzing optical spectra of a parent sample of ∼23,000 low-mass emission-line galaxies in the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) Survey Data Release 4, and employing four different diagnostics based on narrow emission-line ratios and the detection of high-ionization coronal lines. We find that 47 of the 388 low-mass active galaxies exhibit broad Hα in their spectra, corresponding to virial BH masses in the range M BH ∼ 105.0–7.7 M ⊙ with a median BH mass of 〈M BH〉 ∼ 106.2 M ⊙. Our sample extends to higher redshifts (z ≤ 0.3; 〈z〉 = 0.13) than previous samples of AGNs in low-mass/dwarf galaxies based on Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectroscopy, which can be attributed to the spectroscopic limit of GAMA being ∼2 mag deeper. Moreover, our multi-diagnostic approach has revealed low-mass active galaxies spanning a wide range of properties, from blue star-forming dwarfs to luminous “miniquasars” powered by low-mass BHs. As such, this work has implications for BH seeding and AGN feedback at low masses.



Active galactic nuclei, Black holes, Astrophysical black holes, Active galaxies, Low-luminosity active galactic nuclei


Salehirad, S., Reines, A. E., & Molina, M. (2022). Hundreds of Low-mass Active Galaxies in the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) Survey. The Astrophysical Journal, 937(1), 7.
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