Exploring the spectroscopic properties of relic radiogalaxies⋆
INAF – Osservatorio Astrofisico di Torino, Strada Osservatorio
2 Department of Physics, Rochester Institute of Technology, 85 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623, USA
3 SISSA-ISAS, via Bonomea 265, 34136 Trieste, Italy
4 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio 5, 35122 Padova, Italy
5 School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
6 INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via E. Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate, Italy
7 Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
8 INAF – Istituto di Radio Astronomia, via P. Gobetti 101, 40129 Bologna, Italy
Received: 30 October 2012
Accepted: 8 January 2013
From an optical spectroscopic survey of 3CR radiogalaxies (RGs) with z < 0.3, we discovered three objects characterized by an extremely low level of gas excitation and a large deficit of line emission with respect to RGs of similar radio luminosity. We interpreted these objects as relic active galactic nuclei (AGN), i.e., sources observed after a large drop in their nuclear activity.
We here present new spectroscopic observations for these three galaxies and for a group of “candidate” relics. None of the candidates can be convincingly confirmed.
From the new data for the three relics, we estimate the density of the line-emitting gas. This enables us to explore the temporal evolution of the line ratios after the AGN “death”. The characteristic timescale is the light-crossing time of the emission-line region, a few ~103 years, too short to correspond to a substantial population of relic RGs. Additional mechanisms of gas ionization, such as “relic shocks” from their past high power phase or stellar sources, should also be considered to account for the spectroscopic properties of the relic RGs.
Relic RGs appear to be a mixed bag of sources in different phases of evolution, including AGN recently (~104 years ago) quenched, galaxies that have been inactive for at least ~106 years, and objects caught during the transition from a powerful RG to a low power FR I source.
Key words: galaxies: active / galaxies: jets / galaxies: elliptical and lenticular, cD / galaxies: nuclei
© ESO, 2013