Differentiating between active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity and star formation in z ∼ 2 galaxies is difficult because traditional methods, such as line-ratio diagnostics, change with redshift, while multi-wavelength methods (X-ray, radio, IR) are sensitive to only the brightest AGNs. We have developed a new method for spatially resolving emission lines using the Hubble Space Telescope/Wide Field Camera 3 G141 grism spectra and quantifying AGN activity through the spatial gradient of the [O iii]/Hβ line ratio. Through detailed simulations, we show that our novel line-ratio gradient approach identifies ∼40% more low-mass and obscured AGNs than obtained by classical methods. Based on our simulations, we developed a relationship that maps the stellar mass, star formation rate, and measured [O iii]/Hβ gradient to the AGN Eddington ratio. We apply our technique to previously studied stacked samples of galaxies at z ∼ 2 and find that our results are consistent with these studies. This gradient method will also be able to inform other areas of galaxy evolution science, such as inside-out quenching and metallicity gradients, and will be widely applicable to future spatially resolved James Webb Space Telescope data.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science