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Impact of supermassive black hole growth on star formation


Supermassive black holes are found at the centres of massive galaxies. During the growth of these black holes they light up to become visible as active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and release extraordinary amounts of energy across the electromagnetic spectrum. This energy is widely believed to regulate the rate of star formation in the black holes’ host galaxies via so-called AGN feedback. However, the details of how and when this occurs remain uncertain from both an observational and theoretical perspective. I review some of the theoretical motivation and observational results and discuss possible observational signatures of the impact of supermassive black hole growth on star formation.

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Figure 1: Average ratio of stellar mass to halo mass as a function of halo mass for three runs of a simulation and for the semi-empirical relationship.
Figure 2: Ratio of H2 mass outflow rate to star formation rate as a function of AGN luminosity for low redshift (z < 0.2) ULIRGs and quasar host galaxies.
Figure 3: Mean star formation rate versus instantaneous black hole accretion rate.
Figure 4: Mean star formation rate versus stellar mass data.


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I acknowledge the Science and Technology Facilities Council through grant code ST/L00075X/1. Thanks go to D. Alexander, D. Rosario, S. McAlpine and J. Mullaney for stimulating discussion. Thanks also go to the EAGLE consortium for making the data from their simulations publicly available.

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Harrison, C. Impact of supermassive black hole growth on star formation. Nat Astron 1, 0165 (2017).

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