A Hidden Population of Massive Black Holes in Simulated Dwarf Galaxies

Ray S. Sharma, Alyson M. Brooks, Michael Tremmel, Jillian Bellovary, Angelo Ricarte, Thomas R. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We explore the characteristics of actively accreting massive black holes (MBHs) within dwarf galaxies in the Romulus25 cosmological hydrodynamic simulation. We examine the MBH occupation fraction, X-ray active fractions, and active galactic nucleus (AGN) scaling relations within dwarf galaxies of stellar mass 108 M < M star < 1010 M out to redshift z = 2. In the local universe, the MBH occupation fraction is consistent with observed constraints, dropping below unity at M star < 3 × 1010 M , M 200 < 3 × 1011 M . Local dwarf AGN in Romulus25 follow observed scaling relations between AGN X-ray luminosity, stellar mass, and star formation rate, though they exhibit slightly higher active fractions and number densities than comparable X-ray observations. Since z = 2, the MBH occupation fraction has decreased, the population of dwarf AGN has become overall less luminous, and as a result the overall number density of dwarf AGN has diminished. We predict the existence of a large population of MBHs in the local universe with low X-ray luminosities and high contamination from X-ray binaries and the hot interstellar medium that are undetectable by current X-ray surveys. These hidden MBHs make up 76% of all MBHs in local dwarf galaxies and include many MBHs that are undermassive relative to their host galaxy’s stellar mass. Their detection relies on not only greater instrument sensitivity but also better modeling of X-ray contaminants or multiwavelength surveys. Our results indicate that dwarf AGN were substantially more active in the past, despite having low luminosity today, and that future deep X-ray surveys may uncover many hidden MBHs in dwarf galaxies out to at least z = 2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number82
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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