Do Current X-Ray Observations Capture Most of the Black-hole Accretion at High Redshifts? Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract The cosmic black hole accretion density (BHAD) is critical for our understanding of the formation and evolution of supermassive black holes (BHs). However, at high redshifts (z > 3), X-ray observations report BHADs significantly (10 times) lower than those predicted by cosmological simulations. It is therefore paramount to constrain the high-z BHAD using independent methods other than direct X-ray detections. The recently established relation between star formation rate and BH accretion rate among bulge-dominated galaxies provides such a chance, as it enables an estimate of the BHAD from the star formation histories (SFHs) of lower-redshift objects. Using the CANDELS Ly Emission At Reionization (CLEAR) survey, we model the SFHs for a sample of 108 bulge-dominated galaxies at z = 0.71.5, and further estimate the BHAD contributed by their high-z progenitors. The predicted BHAD at z 45 is consistent with the simulation-predicted values, but higher than the X-ray measurements (by 310 times at z = 45). Our result suggests that the current X-ray surveys could be missing many heavily obscured Compton-thick active galactic nuclei (AGNs) at high redshifts. However, this BHAD estimation assumes that the high-z progenitors of our z = 0.71.5 sample remain bulge-dominated where star formation is correlated with BH cold-gas accretion. Alternatively, our prediction could signify a stark decline in the fraction of bulges in high-z galaxies (with an associated drop in BH accretion). JWST and Origins will resolve the discrepancy between our predicted BHAD and the X-ray results by constraining Compton-thick AGN and bulge evolution at high redshifts.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Yang, G., Estrada-Carpenter, V., Papovich, C., Vito, F., Walsh, J. L., Yao, Z., & Yuan, F.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Yang, Guang||Estrada-Carpenter, Vicente||Papovich, Casey||Vito, Fabio||Walsh, Jonelle L||Yao, Zhiyuan||Yuan, Feng

publication date

  • November 2021