The Most Luminous Galaxies Discovered by WISE

June 2015 • 2015ApJ...805...90T

Authors • Tsai, Chao-Wei • Eisenhardt, Peter R. M. • Wu, Jingwen • Stern, Daniel • Assef, Roberto J. • Blain, Andrew W. • Bridge, Carrie R. • Benford, Dominic J. • Cutri, Roc M. • Griffith, Roger L. • Jarrett, Thomas H. • Lonsdale, Carol J. • Masci, Frank J. • Moustakas, Leonidas A. • Petty, Sara M. • Sayers, Jack • Stanford, S. Adam • Wright, Edward L. • Yan, Lin • Leisawitz, David T. • Liu, Fengchuan • Mainzer, Amy K. • McLean, Ian S. • Padgett, Deborah L. • Skrutskie, Michael F. • Gelino, Christopher R. • Beichman, Charles A. • Juneau, Stéphanie

Abstract • We present 20 Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)-selected galaxies with bolometric luminosities Lbol > 1014 L, including five with infrared luminosities LIR ≡ L(rest 8-1000 μm) > 1014 L. These “extremely luminous infrared galaxies,” or ELIRGs, were discovered using the “W1W2-dropout” selection criteria which requires marginal or non-detections at 3.4 and 4.6 μm (W1 and W2, respectively) but strong detections at 12 and 22 μm in the WISE survey. Their spectral energy distributions are dominated by emission at rest-frame 4-10 μm, suggesting that hot dust with Td ∼ 450 K is responsible for the high luminosities. These galaxies are likely powered by highly obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and there is no evidence suggesting these systems are beamed or lensed. We compare this WISE-selected sample with 116 optically selected quasars that reach the same Lbol level, corresponding to the most luminous unobscured quasars in the literature. We find that the rest-frame 5.8 and 7.8 μm luminosities of the WISE-selected ELIRGs can be 30%-80% higher than that of the unobscured quasars. The existence of AGNs with Lbol > 1014 L at z > 3 suggests that these supermassive black holes are born with large mass, or have very rapid mass assembly. For black hole seed masses ∼103 M, either sustained super-Eddington accretion is needed, or the radiative efficiency must be <15%, implying a black hole with slow spin, possibly due to chaotic accretion.


IPAC Authors

Roc Cutri

IPAC Deputy Director

Chris Gelino

Associate Scientist