Journal Article

Near-infrared observations of the HE 0450−2958 system: discovery of a second active galactic nucleus?*

G. Letawe, P. Magain, V. Chantry and Y. Letawe

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 396, issue 1, pages 78-84
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Near-infrared observations of the HE 0450−2958 system: discovery of a second active galactic nucleus?*

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The quasi-stellar object (QSO) HE 0450−2958 was brought to the front scene by the non-detection of its host galaxy and strong upper limits on the latter's luminosity. The QSO is also a powerful infrared emitter, in gravitational interaction with a strongly distorted ultraluminous infrared companion galaxy. We investigate the properties of the companion galaxy, through new near- and mid-infrared observations of the system obtained with Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) onboard Hubble Space Telescope, Infrared Spectrometer and Array Camera (ISAAC) and Very Large Telescope Imager and Spectrometer in the Infrared (VISIR) on the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope. The companion galaxy is found to harbour a point source revealed only in the infrared, in what appears as a hole or dark patch in the optical images. Various hypotheses on the nature of this point source are analysed and it is found that the only plausible one is that it is a strongly reddened active galactic nucleus hidden behind a thick dust cloud. The hypothesis that the QSO supermassive black hole might have been ejected from the companion galaxy in the course of a galactic collision involving three-body black holes interaction is also reviewed, on the basis of this new insight on a definitely complex system.

Keywords: galaxies: active; quasars: individual: HE 0450−2958

Journal Article.  5148 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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