The host galaxies of active galactic nuclei

Guinevere Kauffmann, Timothy M. Heckman, Christy Tremonti, Jarle Brinchmann, Stéphane Charlot, Simon D.M. White, Susan E. Ridgway, Jon Brinkmann, Masataka Fukugita, Patrick B. Hall, Željko Ivezić, Gordon T. Richards, Donald P. Schneider

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2703 Citations (SciVal)


We examine the properties of the host galaxies of 22 623 narrow-line active galactic nuclei (AGN) with 0.02 < z < 0.3 selected from a complete sample of 122 808 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We focus on the luminosity of the [O III] λ5007 emission line as a tracer of the strength of activity in the nucleus. We study how AGN host properties compare with those of normal galaxies and how they depend on L[O III]. We find that AGN of all luminosities reside almost exclusively in massive galaxies and have distributions of sizes, stellar surface mass densities and concentrations that are similar to those of ordinary early-type galaxies in our sample. The host galaxies of low-luminosity AGN have stellar populations similar to normal early types. The hosts of high-luminosity AGN have much younger mean stellar ages. The young stars are not preferentially located near the nucleus of the galaxy, but are spread out over scales of at least several kiloparsecs. A significant fraction of high-luminosity AGN have strong Uδ absorption-line equivalent widths, indicating that they experienced a burst of star formation in the recent past. We have also examined the stellar populations of the host galaxies of a sample of broad-line AGN. We conclude that there is no significant difference in stellar content between type 2 Seyfert hosts and quasars (QSOs) with the same [O III] luminosity and redshift. This establishes that a young stellar population is a general property of AGN with high [O III] luminosities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1055-1077
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 21 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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