The triggering probability of radio-loud AGN. A comparison of high and low excitation radio galaxies in hosts of different colors

R. M. J. Janssen, H. J. A. Röttgering, P. N. Best, J. Brinchmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Low luminosity radio-loud active galactic nuclei (AGN) are generally found in massive red elliptical galaxies, where they are thought to be powered through gas accretion from their surrounding hot halos in a radiatively inefficient manner. These AGN are often referred to as "low-excitation" radio galaxies (LERGs). When radio-loud AGN are found in galaxies with a young stellar population and active star formation, they are usually high-power radiatively-efficient radio AGN ("high-excitation", HERG). Using a sample of low-redshift radio galaxies identified within the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), we determine the fraction of galaxies that host a radio-loud AGN, fRL, as a function of host galaxy stellar mass, M∗, star formation rate, color (defined by the 4000 Å break strength), radio luminosity and excitation state (HERG/LERG). We find the following: 1. LERGs are predominantly found in red galaxies. 2. The radio-loud AGN fraction of LERGs hosted by galaxies of any color follows a fLE_RL ∝ M^{2.5_*} power law. 3. The fraction of red galaxies hosting a LERG decreases strongly for increasing radio luminosity. For massive blue galaxies this is not the case. 4. The fraction of green galaxies hosting a LERG is lower than that of either red or blue galaxies, at all radio luminosities. 5. The radio-loud AGN fraction of HERGs hosted by galaxies of any color follows a fLE_RL ∝ M^{1.5_*} power law. 6. HERGs have a strong preference to be hosted by green or blue galaxies. 7. The fraction of galaxies hosting a HERG shows only a weak dependence on radio luminosity cut. 8. For both HERGs and LERGs, the hosting probability of blue galaxies shows a strong dependence on star formation rate. This is not observed in galaxies of a different color. Our interpretation of these results is that the presence of cold gas in a LERG enhances the probability that its SMBH becomes a luminous radio-loud AGN compared to the typical "model" LERG in a red elliptical galaxy. If enough cold gas can be transported to the SMBH a HERG can be created. However, the presence of cold gas does not automatically imply a HERG will be created. We speculate that feedback of the enhanced AGN activity in blue galaxies is responsible for the reduced probability of green galaxies to host a LERG.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Volume541
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012

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