We present the results of a new analysis of the X-ray selected active galactic nuclei (AGN) population residing in and behind 135 of the most massive galaxy clusters in the redshift range of 0.2 < z < 0.9 observed with Chandra. With a sample of more than 11 000 Xray point sources, we are able to measure, for the first time, evidence for evolution in the cluster AGN population beyond the expected evolution of field AGN. Our analysis shows that overall number density of cluster AGN scales with the cluster mass as ~M-1.2 500. There is no evidence for the overall number density of cluster member X-ray AGN depending on the cluster redshift in a manner different than field AGN, nor is there any evidence that the spatial distribution of clusterAGN(given in units of the cluster overdensity radius r500) strongly depends on the cluster mass or redshift. TheM-1.2 ± 0.7 scaling relationwemeasure is consistent with theoretical predictions of the galaxy merger rate in clusters, which is expected to scalewith the cluster velocity dispersion, α, as ~α-3 or ~M-1. This consistency suggests that galaxy mergers may be an important contributor to the cluster AGN population, a result that is further corroborated by visual inspection of Hubble images for 23 spectroscopically confirmed cluster member AGN in our sample. A merger-driven scenario for the triggering of X-ray AGN is not strongly favoured by studies of field galaxies, however, suggesting that different mechanisms may be primarily responsible for the triggering of cluster and field X-ray AGN.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science