Probing the host galaxy of a luminous quasar

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Title: Probing the host galaxy of a luminous quasar
Creators: Watson, Linda
Advisor: Martini, Paul; Peterson, Bradley
Issue Date: 2009-04
Abstract: We present a study of PG 1426+015, a quasar and host galaxy system at a distance of 1.3 billion light years. Quasars are intrinsically bright objects found at the center of 0.1% of local galaxies. With luminosities greater than 30 billion times that of our Sun, quasars must be powered by an exceptionally energetic phenomenon: the accretion of matter onto a black hole more than ten million times as massive as our Sun. The science goal of our study is to place PG 1426+015 on the M-sigma relation --- an empirical correlation between the mass of the central black hole (M) and the stellar velocity dispersion of the host galaxy (sigma). The velocity dispersion is a measure of the average random velocity of stars in a galaxy; typically more massive galaxies have larger velocity dispersions. The M-sigma relation implies that the growth of the central black hole and the stellar component of a galaxy is synchronized. This is an area of intensive research because a well-accepted theory explaining the M-sigma relation has not yet emerged. In our work, we focus on populating the high-mass end of the relation with luminous quasars because these objects are often extreme in their black hole masses and accretion rates. Previous work investigating luminous quasars on the M-sigma relation was limited by low-precision velocity dispersions. This is a symptom of the general challenge of quasar host galaxy studies: a quasar typically outshines its host galaxy by a factor of about ten. To circumvent this challenge, we obtained data using a combination of state of the art instrumentation available at the Gemini North telescope located on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii: the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS) and the recently installed Altair Laser Guide Star adaptive optics system. The technical goal of our study is to determine whether this combination of instrumentation is an aid to host galaxy studies of luminous quasars.
Citation: Watson, L. C., Martini, P., Dasyra, K. M., Bentz, M. C., Ferrarese, L., Peterson, B. M., Pogge, R. W., & Tacconi, L. J. 2008, The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 682, L21
Embargo: No embargo
Series/Report no.: 2009 Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum. 23rd
Keywords: active galaxies
Description: Mathematical and Physical Sciences: 3rd Place (The Ohio State University Edward F. Hayes Graduate Research Forum)
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