The formation of bulges and black holes: lessons from a census of active galaxies in the SDSS
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
We examine the relationship between galaxies, supermassive black holes and AGN using a sample of 22,000 narrow-emission-line AGN drawn from a a sample of 122,000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We have studied how AGN host properties compare with those of normal galaxies and how they depend on the luminosity of the active nucleus. We find that AGN reside in massive galaxies and have distributions of sizes and concentrations that are similar to those of the early-type galaxies in our
... ype galaxies in our sample. The host galaxies of low-luminosity AGN have stellar populations similar to normal early-types. The hosts of high-luminosity AGN have much younger mean stellar ages and a significant fraction have experienced recent starbursts. High-luminosity AGN are also found in lower density environments. We use the stellar velocity dispersions of the AGN hosts to estimate black hole masses and their [OIII]$\lambda$5007 emission line luminosities to estimate black hole accretion rates. We find that the volume averaged ratio of star formation to black hole accretion is ~1000, in remarkable agreement with the observed ratio of stellar mass to black hole mass in nearby bulges. Our estimated accretion rates imply that low mass black holes are growing on a timescale that is comparable to the age of the Universe. The growth timescale increases by more than an order of magnitude for the most massive black holes in our sample. We conclude that the evolution of the AGN luminosity function is driven by a decrease in the characteristic mass scale of actively accreting black holes.