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Title: Role of active galactic nuclei in galaxy evolution
Author: Nisbet, David Maltman
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 5163
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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It is now believed that most, if not all, galaxies contain a supermassive black hole (SMBH) and that these play a crucial role in their host galaxies' evolution. Whilst accreting material, a SMBH (known as an active galactic nucleus, AGN, during this growth phase) releases energy which may have the effect of quenching star formation and constraining the growth of the galaxy. It is believed that AGNs can be divided into two broad fundamental categories, each with its own feedback mechanism. The radiative-mode of feedback occurs in gas-rich galaxies when substantial star formation is occurring and their young AGNs are growing rapidly through efficient accretion of cold gas. A fraction of the energy released by an AGN is transferred into the surrounding gas, creating a thermal "energy-driven" wind or pressure "momentum-driven" wind. Gas and dust may be expelled from the galaxy, so halting star formation but also cutting off the fuel supply to the AGN itself. The jet-mode occurs thereafter. The SMBH has now attained a large mass, but is accreting at a comparatively low level as gas slowly cools and falls back into the galaxy. The accretion process generates two-sided jets that generate shock fronts, so heating the gas surrounding the galaxy and partially offsetting the radiative cooling. This restricts the inflow of gas into the galaxy, so slowing the growth of the galaxy and SMBH. There are several convincing theoretical arguments to support the existence of these feedback mechanisms, although observational evidence has been hard to obtain. A new radio telescope - the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) - recently started operations. LOFAR is especially suitable for investigating AGN feedback. It has been designed to allow exploration of low radio frequencies, between 10 and 240 MHz, which are particularly relevant for research into AGN activity. Also, with its large field-of-view and multi-beam capability, LOFAR is ideal for conducting extensive radio surveys. A project to image deeply the ELAIS-N1 field was started in May 2013. This thesis uses a number of surveys at different wavelengths, but particularly the low-frequency radio observations of the ELAIS-N1 field, to improve our knowledge of jet-mode AGN feedback and hence of the interplay between the complicated processes involved in galaxy formation and evolution. The more important pieces of research within the thesis are as follows: - A sample of 576 AGNs in the nearby universe was assembled and used to find a relationship between radio luminosity, X-ray luminosity and black hole mass. Moreover, the relationship is valid over at least 15 orders of magnitude in X-ray luminosity, strongly suggesting that the process responsible for the launching of radio jets is scale-invariant. - The established "Likelihood Ratio" technique was refined to incorporate colour information in order to optimally match the radio sources in the ELAIS-N1 field with their host galaxies. - The resulting catalogue was used to investigate ways in which radio sources can be matched automatically with their host galaxies (and so avoiding laborious visual examination of each source). The conclusions have helped the design of a pipeline for an extensive wide-area survey currently being conducted by the LOFAR telescope. - The catalogue was also used to investigate the evolution of jet-mode AGNs. This involved: deriving source counts; obtaining redshifts for each object; classifying the radio sources into the different populations of radiative-mode AGNs, jet-mode AGNs and star-forming galaxies; and using the above preparatory work in order to derive a luminosity function for jet-mode AGNs. - Key conclusions are that (1) feedback from jet-mode AGNs peaks at around a redshift of 0.75, (2) the space density of jet-mode AGNs declines steadily with redshift and (3) the typical luminosity of a jet-mode AGN increases steadily with redshift.
Supervisor: Best, Philip ; Mann, Bob Sponsor: Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: supermassive black holes ; SMBH ; active galactic nucleus ; energy-driven wind ; momentum-driven wind ; LOFAR ; AGN feedback ; redshift 0.75 ; redshift