The Origin of Powerful Radio Sources

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Session 15 -- AGNs II: Models
Oral presentation, Monday, June 12, 1995, 2:00pm - 3:30pm

[15.02] The Origin of Powerful Radio Sources

A. S. Wilson, E. J. M. Colbert (UMD \& STScI)

Radio-loud active galaxies are associated with elliptical or elliptical-like galaxies, many of which appear to be the result of a recent merger. In contrast, radio-quiet active galaxies prefer spiral hosts. Despite the very large difference in radio luminosities between the two classes, their continua and line spectra from infrared through X-ray frequencies are very similar. In this paper, we describe recent developments of our model (Ap. J. 438, 62 1995) in which the radio-loud phenomenon is the result of a merger of two galaxies, with each galaxy nucleus containing a slowly (or non-) rotating supermassive black hole. It is envisaged that the two black holes eventually coalesce. For the small fraction of mergers in which the two holes are both massive and of comparable mass, a rapidly-spinning, high-mass hole results. The spin energy of a rapidly rotating 10$^{8-9}$ solar mass hole suffices to provide the $\approx$ 10$^{60}$ ergs in relativistic particles and magnetic fields in the most energetic radio sources. Luminous radio-quiet active galaxies contain high-mass, slowly-rotating holes, with the infrared through X-ray emission of both classes being fuelled by accretion as commonly assumed. We discuss constraints on the model from the luminosity functions of radio-loud and radio-quiet galaxies and from the known cosmological evolution of the radio source population; this evolution is assumed to reflect higher galaxy merger rates in the past.

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