James Webb Space Telescope Feed Post

Date: 6/14/2024

Harvard ADS: AGN Feedback in Quiescent Galaxies at Cosmic Noon Traced by Ionized Gas Emission

Paper abstract: We analyze ionized gas emission lines in deep rest-frame optical spectra of 16 quiescent galaxies at redshift 1.7 < z < 3.5 observed with JWST/NIRSpec by the Blue Jay survey. Robust detection of emission lines in 75\% of the sample indicates the presence of ongoing ionizing sources in this passive population. The H\alpha line luminosities confirm that the population is quiescent, with star formation rates that are at least ten times lower than the main sequence of star formation. The quiescent sample is clearly separate from the star-forming population in line diagnostic diagrams, and occupies a region usually populated by active galactic nuclei (AGN). Analysis of the observed line ratios, equivalent widths, and velocity dispersions leads us to conclude that in most cases the gas is ionized by AGN activity, despite the lack of X-ray detections. A subset of the sample also hosts ionized and/or neutral outflows. Our results show, for the first time using a representative sample, that low luminosity AGN are extremely common among quiescent galaxies at high redshift. These low luminosity AGN may play a key role in quenching star formation and in maintaining massive galaxies quiescent from Cosmic Noon to z~0.