Mergers as triggers for nuclear activity: A near-IR study of the close environment of AGN in the VISTA-VIDEO survey

M. Karouzos, M.J. Jarvis, D. Bonfield

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    There is an ongoing debate concerning the driver of nuclear activity in galaxies, with active galactic nuclei (AGN) either being triggered by major or minor galactic mergers or, alternatively, through secular processes like cold gas accretion and/or formation of bars. We investigate the close environment of active galaxies selected in the X-ray, the radio and the mid-IR. We utilize the first data release of the new near-IR VISTA Deep Extragalactic Observations (VIDEO) survey of the XMM-Large Scale Structure field. We use two measures of environment density, namely counts within a given aperture and a finite redshift slice (pseudo- 3D density) and closest neighbour density measures ∑2 and ∑5. We select both AGN and control samples, matching them in redshift and apparent Ks-band magnitude. We find that AGN are found in a range of environments, with a subset of the AGN samples residing in overdense environments. Seyfert-like X-ray AGN and flat-spectrum radio-AGN are found to inhabit significantly overdense environments compared to their control sample. The relation between overdensities and AGN luminosity does not however reveal any positive correlation. Given the absence of an environment density-AGN luminosity relation, we find no support for a scheme where high-luminosity AGN are preferentially triggered by mergers. On the contrary, we find that AGN likely trace over dense environments at high redshift due to the fact that they inhabit the most massive galaxies, rather than being an AGN.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)861-877
    Number of pages17
    JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
    Issue number1
    Early online date30 Jan 2014
    Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2014


    • Galaxies: Active
    • Galaxies: Evolution
    • Galaxies: Statistics
    • Infrared: Galaxies
    • Surveys


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