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X-ray observations of highly obscured τ_(9.7 μm) > 1 sources: an efficient method for selecting Compton-thick AGN?

Georgantopoulos, I. and Dasyra, K. M. and Rovilos, E. and Pope, A. and Dickinson, M. and Comastri, A. and Gilli, R. and Elbaz, D. and Armus, L. and Akylas, A. (2011) X-ray observations of highly obscured τ_(9.7 μm) > 1 sources: an efficient method for selecting Compton-thick AGN? Astronomy and Astrophysics, 531 . Art. No. A116. ISSN 0004-6361.

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Observations with the IRS spectrograph onboard Spitzer have found many sources with very deep Si features at 9.7 μm, that have optical depths of τ > 1. Since it is believed that a few of these systems in the local Universe are associated with Compton-thick active galactic nuclei (hereafter AGN), we set out to investigate whether the presence of a strong Si absorption feature is a good indicator of a heavily obscured AGN. We compile X-ray spectroscopic observations available in the literature on the optically-thick (τ_(9.7 μm) > 1) sources from the 12 μm IRAS Seyfert sample. We find that the majority of the high-τ optically confirmed Seyferts (six out of nine) in the 12 μm sample are probably Compton-thick. Thus, we provide direct evidence of a connection between mid-IR optically-thick galaxies and Compton-thick AGN, with the success rate being close to 70% in the local Universe. This is at least comparable to, if not better than, other rates obtained with photometric information in the mid to far-IR, or even mid-IR to X-rays. However, this technique cannot provide complete Compton-thick AGN samples, i.e., there are many Compton-thick AGN that do not display significant Si absorption, with the most notable example being NGC1068. After assessing the validity of the high 9.7 μm optical-depth technique in the local Universe, we attempt to construct a sample of candidate Compton-thick AGN at higher redshifts. We compile a sample of seven high-τ Spitzer sources in the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) and five in the Spitzer First-Look Survey. All these have been selected to have no PAH features (EW_(6.2 μm) < 0.3 μm) to maximise the probability that they are bona-fide AGN. Six out of the seven GOODS sources have been detected in X-rays, while for the five FLS sources only X-ray flux upper limits are available. The high X-ray luminosities (L_X > 10^(42) erg s^(−1)) of the detected GOODS sources corroborates that these are AGN. For FLS, ancillary optical spectroscopy reveals hidden nuclei in two more sources. SED fitting can support the presence of an AGN in the vast majority of sources. Owing to the limited photon statistics, we cannot derive useful constraints from X-ray spectroscopy on whether these sources are Compton-thick. However, the low L_(X)/L_(6 μm) luminosity ratios, suggest that at least four out of the six detected sources in GOODS may be associated with Compton-thick AGN.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Pope, A.0000-0001-8592-2706
Dickinson, M.0000-0001-5414-5131
Comastri, A.0000-0003-3451-9970
Elbaz, D.0000-0002-7631-647X
Armus, L.0000-0003-3498-2973
Additional Information:© 2011 ESO. Article published by EDP Sciences. Received 16 December 2010;Accepted 22 April 2011. I.G. and A.C. acknowledge support by the European Community through the Marie Curie fellowship FP7-PEOPLE-IEF-2008 Prop. 235285 under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013). K.D. also acknowledges support by the European Community through a Marie Curie Fellowship (PIEF-GA-2009-235038) awarded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) The Chandra data were taken from the Chandra Data Archive at the Chandra X-ray Center. This work is based on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under contract with NASA.
Group:Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Marie Curie FellowshipFP7-PEOPLE-IEF-2008 Prop. 235285
Marie Curie FellowshipPIEF-GA-2009-235038
Subject Keywords:X-rays: general; X-rays: diffuse background; X-rays: galaxies; infrared: galaxies
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110913-114504489
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Official Citation:X-ray observations of highly obscured τ9.7 μm > 1 sources: an efficient method for selecting Compton-thick AGN? I. Georgantopoulos, K. M. Dasyra, E. Rovilos, A. Pope, Y. Wu, M. Dickinson, A. Comastri, R. Gilli, D. Elbaz, L. Armus and A. Akylas A&A 531 A116 (2011) DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201016338
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:25310
Deposited By: Jason Perez
Deposited On:13 Sep 2011 21:55
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 03:04

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