A unified, merger-driven model of the origin of starbursts, quasars, the cosmic X-ray background, supermassive black holes, and galaxy spheroids

Philip F. Hopkins, Lars Hernquist, Thomas J. Cox, Tiziana Di Matteo, Brant Robertson, Volker Springel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1483 Scopus citations

Abstract

We present an evolutionary model for starbursts, quasars, and spheroidal galaxies in which mergers between gas-rich galaxies drive nuclear inflows of gas, producing starbursts and feeding the buried growth of supermassive black holes (BHs) until feedback expels gas and renders a briefly visible optical quasar. The quasar lifetime and obscuring column density depend on both the instantaneous and peak quasar luminosity, and we determine this dependence using a large set of galaxy merger simulations varying galaxy properties, orbital geometry, and gas physics. We use these fits to deconvolve observed quasar luminosity functions and obtain the evolution of the formation rate of quasars with peak luminosity, ṅ(L peak, z). Quasars spend extended periods at luminosities well below peak, so ṅ(L peak) has a maximum corresponding to the "break" in the observed luminosity function. From ṅ(L peak) and our simulations, we obtain self-consistent hard and soft X-ray and optical luminosity functions and predict many observables at multiple redshifts, including column density distributions of optical and X-ray samples, the luminosity function of broad-line quasars in X-ray samples and broad-line fraction versus luminosity, active BH mass functions, the distribution of Eddington ratios, the mass function of relic BHs and total BH mass density, and the cosmic X-ray background. In every case, our predictions agree well with observed estimates, without invoking ad hoc assumptions about source properties or distributions. We provide a library of Monte Carlo realizations of our models for comparison with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-49
Number of pages49
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Volume163
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2006

Keywords

  • Cosmology: theory
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: evolution
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Quasars: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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