Document Type


Publication Date

October 2011

Publication Title

Astrophysical Journal



Issue Number





galaxies: active, galaxies: evolution, galaxies: interactions, quasars: general


Astrophysics and Astronomy | Physics


We present images of 29 post-starburst quasars (PSQs) from a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) Wide Field Channel Snapshot program. These broadlined active galactic nuclei (AGNs) possess the spectral signatures of massive (Mburst ∼ 1010 M), moderate-aged stellar populations (hundreds of Myr). Thus, their composite nature provides insight into the AGN–starburst connection. We measure quasar-to-host galaxy light contributions via semi-automated two-dimensional light profile fits of point-spread-function-subtracted images. We examine the host morphologies and model the separate bulge and disk components. The HST/ACS-F606W images reveal an equal number of spiral (13/29) and early-type (13/29) hosts, with the remaining three hosts having indeterminate classifications. AGNs hosted by early-type galaxies have on average greater luminosity than those hosted by spiral galaxies. Disturbances such as tidal tails, shells, star-forming knots, and asymmetries are seen as signposts of interaction/merger activity. Disturbances like these were found in 17 of the 29 objects and are evenly distributed among early-type and spiral galaxies. Two of these systems are clearly merging with their companions. Compared to other AGNs of similar luminosity and redshift, these PSQs have a higher fraction of early-type hosts and disturbances. Our most luminous objects with disturbed early-type host galaxies appear to be consistent with merger products. Thus, these luminous galaxies may represent a phase in an evolutionary scenario for merger-driven activity. Our less luminous objects appear to be consistent with Seyfert galaxies not requiring triggering by major mergers. Many of these Seyferts are barred spiral galaxies.


This article was originally published in The Astrophysical Journal, volume 741, issue 2. © 2011. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
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