Linking galaxy structural properties and star formation activity to black hole activity with IllustrisTNG

Mélanie Habouzit, Shy Genel, Rachel S. Somerville, Dale Kocevski, Michaela Hirschmann, Avishai Dekel, Ena Choi, Dylan Nelson, Annalisa Pillepich, Paul Torrey, Lars Hernquist, Mark Vogelsberger, Rainer Weinberger, Volker Springel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


We study the connection between active galactic nuclei (AGN) and their host galaxies through cosmic time in the large-scale cosmological IllustrisTNG simulations. We first compare BH properties, i.e. the hard X-ray BH luminosity function, AGN galaxy occupation fraction, and distribution of Eddington ratios, to available observational constraints. The simulations produce a population of BHs in good agreement with observations, but we note an excess of faint AGN in hard X-ray (L-rm xsim 10 43-44, rm erg/s), and a lower number of bright AGN (L-rm xgt 10 44 , rm erg/s), a conclusion that varies quantitatively but not qualitatively with BH luminosity estimation method. The lower Eddington ratios of the 10 9, rm M-odot BHs compared to observations suggest that AGN feedback may be too efficient in this regime. We study galaxy star formation activity and structural properties, and design sample-dependent criteria to identify different galaxy types (star-forming/quiescent, extended/compact) that we apply both to the simulations and observations from the candels fields. We analyse how the simulated and observed galaxies populate the specific star formation rate - stellar mass surface density diagram. A large fraction of the z = 0 M-star geqslant 10 11, rm M-odot quiescent galaxies first experienced a compaction phase (i.e. reduction of galaxy size) while still forming stars, and then a quenching event. We measure the dependence of AGN fraction on galaxies' locations in this diagram. After correcting the simulations with a redshift and AGN luminosity-dependent model for AGN obscuration, we find good qualitative and quantitative agreement with observations. The AGN fraction is the highest among compact star-forming galaxies (16-20 rm per cent at z 1/4 1.5-2), and the lowest among compact quiescent galaxies (6-10 rm per cent at z 1/4 1.5-2).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4413-4443
Number of pages31
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 21 Apr 2019


  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: formation
  • methods: numerical


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