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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Richard Bower

Barber, C., Schaye, J., Bower, R. G., Crain, R. A., Schaller, M. & Theuns, T. (2016). The origin of compact galaxies with anomalously high black hole masses. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 460(1): 1147-1161.

Author(s) from Durham


Observations of local galaxies harbouring supermassive black holes (BH) of anomalously high mass, MBH, relative to their stellar mass, M*, appear to be at odds with simple models of the co-evolution between galaxies and their central BHs. We study the origin of such outliers in a Λ cold dark matter context using the EAGLE cosmological, hydrodynamical simulation. We find 15 ‘MBH(M*)-outlier' galaxies, defined as having MBH more than 1.5 dex above the median MBH(M*) relation in the simulation, MBH, med(M*). All MBH(M*)-outliers are satellite galaxies, typically with M* ∼ 1010 M⊙ and MBH ∼ 108 M⊙. They have all become outliers due to a combination of tidal stripping of their outer stellar component acting over several Gyr and early formation times leading to rapid BH growth at high redshift, with the former mechanism being most important for 67 per cent of these outliers. The same mechanisms also cause the MBH(M*)-outlier satellites to be amongst the most compact galaxies in the simulation, making them ideal candidates for ultracompact dwarf galaxy progenitors. The 10 most extreme central galaxies found at z = 0 (with log10(MBH/MBH, med(M*)) ∈ [1.2, 1.5]) grow rapidly in MBH to lie well above the present-day MBH − M* relation at early times (z ≳ 2), and either continue to evolve parallel to the z = 0 relation or remain unchanged until the present day, making them ‘relics' of the high-redshift universe. This high-z formation mechanism may help to explain the origin of observed MBH(M*)-outliers with extended dark matter haloes and undisturbed morphologies.