A comparative HST imaging study of the host galaxies of radio-quiet quasars, radio-loud quasars and radio galaxies - I

R. J. McLure, M. J. Kukula, James Dunlop, S. A. Baum, C. P. O'Dea, D. H. Hughes

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Abstract / Description of output

We present the first results from a major HST WFPC2 imaging study aimed at providing the first statistically meaningful comparison of the morphologies, luminosities, scalelengths and colours of the host galaxies of radio-quiet quasars, radio-loud quasars and radio galaxies. We describe the design of this study and present the images that have been obtained for the first half of our 33-source sample. We find that the hosts of all three classes of luminous AGN are massive elliptical galaxies, with scalelengths ~=10kpc, and R-K colours consistent with mature stellar populations. Most importantly, this is first unambiguous evidence that, just like radio-loud quasars, essentially all radio-quiet quasars brighter than M_R=-24 reside in massive ellipticals. This result removes the possibility that radio `loudness' is directly linked to host galaxy morphology, but is however in excellent accord with the black hole/spheroid mass correlation recently highlighted by Magorrian et al. We apply the relations given by Magorrian et al. to infer the expected Eddington luminosity of the putative black hole at the centre of each of the spheroidal host galaxies we have uncovered. Comparison with the actual nuclear R-band luminosities suggests that the black holes in most of these galaxies are radiating at a few per cent of the Eddington luminosity; the brightest host galaxies in our low-z sample are capable of hosting quasars with M_R~=- 28, comparable to the most luminous quasars at z~=3. Finally, we discuss our host-derived black hole masses in the context of the radio luminosity:black hole mass correlation recently uncovered for nearby galaxies by Franceschini et al., and consider the resulting implications for the physical origin of radio loudness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-404
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume308
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 1999

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