A Preferential Growth Channel for Supermassive Black Holes in Elliptical Galaxies at z ≲ 2

Farrah, Duncan; Petty, Sara; Croker, Kevin S.; Tarlé, Gregory; Zevin, Michael; Hatziminaoglou, Evanthia; Shankar, Francesco; Wang, Lingyu; Clements, David L; Efstathiou, Andreas; Lacy, Mark; Nishimura, Kurtis A.; Afonso, Jose; Pearson, Chris and Pitchford, Lura K (2023). A Preferential Growth Channel for Supermassive Black Holes in Elliptical Galaxies at z ≲ 2. The Astrophysical Journal, 943(2), article no. 133.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/acac2e


The assembly of stellar and supermassive black hole (SMBH) mass in elliptical galaxies since z ∼ 1 can help to diagnose the origins of locally observed correlations between SMBH mass and stellar mass. We therefore construct three samples of elliptical galaxies, one at z ∼ 0 and two at 0.7 ≲ z ≲ 2.5, and quantify their relative positions in the MBHM * plane. Using a Bayesian analysis framework, we find evidence for translational offsets in both stellar mass and SMBH mass between the local sample and both higher-redshift samples. The offsets in stellar mass are small, and consistent with measurement bias, but the offsets in SMBH mass are much larger, reaching a factor of 7 between z ∼ 1 and z ∼ 0. The magnitude of the SMBH offset may also depend on redshift, reaching a factor of ∼20 at z ∼ 2. The result is robust against variation in the high- and low-redshift samples and changes in the analysis approach. The magnitude and redshift evolution of the offset are challenging to explain in terms of selection and measurement biases. We conclude that either there is a physical mechanism that preferentially grows SMBHs in elliptical galaxies at z ≲ 2, or that selection and measurement biases are both underestimated, and depend on redshift.

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