A study of 1000 galaxies with unusually young and massive stars in the SDSS: a search for hidden black holes

Guinevere Kauffmann*, Claudia Maraston, Johan Comparat, Paul Crowther

*Corresponding author for this work

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We select 1076 galaxies with extinction-corrected H α equivalent widths too large to be explained with a Kroupa initial mass function, and compare these with a control sample of galaxies that is matched in stellar mass, redshift, and 4000 Å break strength, but with normal H α equivalent widths. Our goal is to study how processes such as black hole growth and energetic feedback processes from massive stars differ between galaxies with extreme central H α emission and galaxies with normal young central stellar populations. The stellar mass distribution of H α excess galaxies is peaked at 3 × 1010 M⊙ and almost all fall well within the star-forming locus in the [O iii]/H β versus [N ii]/H α Baldwin, Philipps & Terlevich diagram. H α excess galaxies are twice as likely to exhibit H α line asymmetries and 1.55 times more likely to be detected at 1 GHz in the VLA FIRST survey compared to control sample galaxies. The radio luminosity per unit stellar mass decreases with the stellar age of the system. Using stacked spectra, we demonstrate that [Ne v] emission is not present in the very youngest of the radio-quiet H α excess galaxies with detectable Wolf-Rayet features, suggesting that black hole growth has not yet commenced in such systems. [Ne v] emission is detected in H α excess galaxies with radio detections and the strength of the line correlates with the radio luminosity. This is the clearest indication for a population of black holes that may be forming in a subset of the H α excess population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1077
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Early online date9 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • galaxies: Active
  • galaxies: Bulges
  • galaxies: Nuclei
  • galaxies: Star formation
  • galaxies: Stellar content
  • stars:Wolf-Rayet


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