Quasar host galaxies and their cosmic evolution


  The QSO phenomenon occurs in the nuclei of massive galaxies and exhibits a strong evolution with the cosmic time. The central engine for the huge energy emission is believed to be a supermassive black hole. Similar massive but inactive black holes have been also detected in nearby early type galaxies. These findings suggest that many normal (inactive) galaxies may have hosted nuclear activity (e.g. quasars) at an early stage of their life and for a relatively short period of time. Studying the link between quasars and their host galaxies may thus yield fundamental clues for understanding the processes of formation and evolution of both the active nuclei and the galaxies. Physical insight on the evolution of spheroidal galaxies and black holes with cosmic epoch can be obtained by the characterization of high redshift quasar hosts, assuming that the relation between the central black hole mass and the mass of the host galaxy remains valid at high redshifts. 

                                           sofi 1237-10        sofi 1327-21      sofi 1335-06  NIR images of QSO

Figure 2: The evolution of radio loud quasar host luminosity compared with that expected for massive ellipticals (at M∗, M∗-1 and M∗-2; solid, dotted and dashed line ) undergoing passive stellar evolution. Low redshift (z < 2) data represent: HST observations at low (triangles) and intermediate (squares) redshift. VLT observations (filled circles). The value for host galaxy of the two RLQ at z ∼ 2.5 and 2.9 (filled pentagons) is derived from the NACO observation of single objects.  The two individual objects at z >2 from (Peng et al. 2006) (open stars). The data for samples at low redshift are fully described in (Falomo et al. 2004). Each point is plotted at the mean redshift of the considered sample while the error bar represents the 1σ dispersion of the mean except for the individual objects at z > 2 where the uncertainty of the measurement is given. The asterisks represent the average values in redshift bin of 0.3 from the compilation of radio galaxies by (Willott McLure & Jarvis 2003). See also Falomo et al. (2005) and Falomo et al. (2008) for full details on these results. .

Luminous active nuclei may in fact trace the massive spheroidal galaxies at high redshift. The study of their hosts offers an unique way to determine how the luminosity, scale-length and morphology of massive galaxies vary between the peak of quasar activity (at z = 2 - 3) and the present epoch. These studies are carried out at OAPd using VLT high resolution near-IR imaging (see example in Figure 1) and also with Adaptive Optics. An example of these results is shown in Figure 2 where the cosmic evolution of RLQ hosts is given for objects up to z = 3.

Altogether these observations describe a general trend where the host luminosity increases by ∼ 1.5 mag from present epoch up to z ∼ 3. On average, this trend is consistent with that of galaxies of luminosity ∼5L* undergoing passive stellar evolution. The predominance of an old, evolved stellar population is also indicated by spectroscopic studies of low redshift quasars. Remarkably, both RG and RLQ hosts follow a similar trend of the luminosity up to redshift z ∼ 3. This is suggestive of a common origin of the parent galaxies, it also shows both types of radio loud galaxies follow the same evolutionary trend of inactive massive spheroids. The available data indicate therefore that QSO host galaxies are already well formed at z ∼ 3. Since this epoch they follow a luminosity evolution consistent with stellar passive evolution. This does not exclude that in some cases episodes of new star formation may occur. The inferred picture, however, is that there is no decrease in mass at early epochs up to z ∼ 3. Full discussion of these results is given in Falomo et al (2008), Kotilainen et al. (2009)

Cosmic evolution 

 Comparisons of host galaxies of AGN at high and low redshift constrain host galaxy evolution, which can then be compared to the evolution of normal galaxies. Many pieces of evidence suggest that supermassive black holes (BHs) and their host galaxies share a joint evolution throughout cosmic time. In particular: i- the evolution of the quasar luminosity function  closely matches the trend of the star formation density through cosmic ages ; ii- massive black holes are found in virtually all massive spheroids ; iii- their mass MBH is tightly correlated with the large scale properties (stellar velocity dispersion, s; luminosity, Lhost; mass, Mhost) of their host galaxies.

decarli fig8

When and how these relations set in, and which are the physical processes responsible of their onset are still open questions, despite the large efforts per fused both from a theoretical nd an observational point of view.Probing BH–host galaxy relations at high redshift is extremely challenging. Direct measurements of MBH from gaseous or stellar dynamics require observations capable to resolve the BH sphere of influence, which are feasible only for a limited number of nearby galaxies. The only way to measure MBH in distant (> few tensof Mpc) galaxies is to focus on type-1 AGNs, where MBH can be inferred from the width of emission lines Doppler-broadened by the BH potential well and from the AGN continuum luminosity [306], assuming the virial equilibrium. Quasars represent therefore the best tool to probe MBH at high redshift, thanks to their huge luminosity. Indeed, large-field spectroscopic surveys allowed the estimate of MBH in several thousands of objects


Figure The average values of Gamma for the quasars (filled symbols), together with the linear best fit (dotted line). Also shown McLure et al  2006 (dashed line). The average Gamma values of the 51 lensed and non-lensed quasars from
(Peng et al 2006a,b (empty circles) and of the 89 AGN from  Merloni et al 2009 (empty triangles). The horizontal solid line represents the constant Gamma = 0.002 case.



 People: Renato Falomo 

Collaboration: A. Treves (Insubria University), J. Kotilainen (Tuorla,FIN, FINCA), R. Scarpa (GTC), R. Decarli,  (Heidelberg), Sanghvi,J.(FIN)


  • The black hole - host galaxy relation for very low-mass quasars.optical view of BL Lacertae objects. 
    Sanghvi,J.,Kotilainen J.K., Falomo, R., Decarli, R.,Karhunen K, and Uslenghi, M.. 2014 , MNRAS in press arXiv:1409.1948

Decarli et al 2012 Advances in Astronomy, id. 782528 ; Decarli et al 2009 MNRAS 402 2453Decarli et al 2009 MNRAS 402 2441Kotilainen et al. (2009) ApJ 703 166; Kotilainen et al. 2007, ApJ 660,1039Falomo et al. (2008), ApJ 673,694; Hyvönen et al. (2007), A&A 476,723;




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