Volume 590, June 2016
|Number of page(s)
|10 May 2016
Mildly obscured active galaxies and the cosmic X-ray background
ISDC Data Centre for Astrophysics, University of Geneva,
Ch. d’Ecogia 16,
2 Geneva Observatory, University of Geneva, Ch. des Maillettes 51, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
Received: 1 December 2015
Accepted: 12 March 2016
Context. The diffuse cosmic X-ray background (CXB) is the sum of the emission of discrete sources, mostly massive black-holes accreting matter in active galactic nuclei (AGN). The CXB spectrum differs from the integration of the spectra of individual sources, calling for a large population, undetected so far, of strongly obscured Compton-thick AGN. Such objects are predicted by unified models, which attribute most of the AGN diversity to their inclination on the line of sight, and play an important role for the understanding of the growth of black holes in the early Universe.
Aims. The percentage of strongly obscured Compton-thick AGN at low redshift can be derived from the observed CXB spectrum, if we assume AGN spectral templates and luminosity functions.
Methods. We show that high signal-to-noise stacked hard X-ray spectra, derived from more than a billion seconds of effective exposure time with the Swift/BAT instrument, imply that mildly obscured Compton-thin AGN feature a strong reflection and contribute massively to the CXB.
Results. A population of Compton-thick AGN larger than that which is effectively detected is not required to reproduce the CXB spectrum, since no more than 6% of the CXB flux can be attributed to them. The stronger reflection observed in mildly obscured AGN suggests that the covering factor of the gas and dust surrounding their central engines is a key factor in shaping their appearance. These mildly obscured AGN are easier to study at high redshift than Compton-thick sources are.
Key words: galaxies: active / galaxies: Seyfert / diffuse radiation / cosmic background radiation / X-rays: galaxies / X-rays: diffuse background
© ESO, 2016
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