The search for active black holes in nearby low-mass galaxies using optical and mid-IR data

Lia F. Sartori, Kevin Schawinski, Ezequiel Treister, Benny Trakhtenbrot, Michael Koss, Maryam Shirazi, Kyuseok Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated AGN activity in low-mass galaxies, an important regime that can shed light on to black hole (BH) formation and evolution, and their interaction with their host galaxies. We identified 336 AGN candidates from a parent sample of ~48 000 nearby low-mass galaxies (M* ≤ 109.5 M, z < 0.1) in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We selected the AGN using the classical BPT diagram, a similar optical emission line diagnostic based on theHe II λ4686 line, and mid-IR colour cuts. Different criteria select host galaxies with different physical properties such as stellar mass and optical colour and only 3 out of 336 sources fulfil all three criteria. This could be in part due to selection biases. The resulting AGN fraction of ~0.7 per cent is at least one order of magnitude below the one estimated for more massive galaxies. At optical wavelengths, the He II -based AGN selection appears to be more sensitive to AGN hosted in star-forming galaxies than the classical BPT diagram, at least in the low-mass regime. The archival X-ray and radio data available for some of the AGN candidates seem to confirm their AGN nature, but follow-up observations are needed to confirm the AGN nature of the rest of the sample, especially in the case of mid-IR selection. Our sample will be important for future follow-up studies aiming to understand the relation between BHs and host galaxies in the low-mass regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3722-3742
Number of pages21
Issue number4
StatePublished - 21 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: Active
  • Galaxies: Dwarf
  • Galaxies: Nuclei
  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Infrared: Galaxies

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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