Investigating the Evolution of the Dual AGN System ESO 509-IG066


We analyze the evolution of the dual active galactic nucleus (AGN) in ESO 509-IG066, a galaxy pair located at z =0.034 whose nuclei are separated by 11 kpc. Previous observations with XMM-Newton on this dual AGN found evidence for two moderately obscured (∼ 1022 cm-2) X-ray luminous (∼ 1043 erg s-1) nuclear sources. We present an analysis of subsequent Chandra, NuSTAR, and Swift/XRT observations that show one source has dropped in flux by a factor of 10 between 2004 and 2011, which could be explained by either an increase in the absorbing column or an intrinsic fading of the central engine, possibly due to a decrease in mass accretion. Both of these scenarios are predicted by galaxy merger simulations. The source that has dropped in flux is not detected by NuSTAR, which argues against absorption, unless it is extreme. However, new Keck/LRIS optical spectroscopy reveals a previously unreported broad Hα line that is highly unlikely to be visible under the extreme absorption scenario. We therefore conclude that the black hole in this nucleus has undergone a dramatic drop in its accretion rate. From AO-assisted near-infrared integral-field spectroscopy of the other nucleus, we find evidence that the galaxy merger is having a direct effect on the kinematics of the gas close to the nucleus of the galaxy, providing a direct observational link between the galaxy merger and the mass accretion rate onto the black hole.

Publication Title

Astrophysical Journal