Abstract Major mergers of galaxies are considered to be an efficient way to trigger Active Galactic Nuclei and are thought to be responsible for the phenomenon of quasars. This has however recently been challenged by observations of a large number of low luminosity Active Galactic Nuclei at low redshift (z≾1) without obvious major merger signatures. Minor mergers are frequently proposed to explain the existence of these Active Galactic Nuclei. In this paper, we perform nine high resolution hydrodynamical simulations of minor galaxy mergers, and investigate whether nuclear activities can be efficiently triggered by minor mergers, by setting various properties for the progenitor galaxies of those mergers. We find that minor galaxy mergers can activate the massive black hole in the primary galaxy with an Eddington ratio of fEdd > 0.01 and > 0.05 (or a bolometric luminosity > 1043 and > 1044 erg s−1) with a duration of 2.71 and 0.49 Gyr (or 2.69 and 0.19 Gyr), respectively. The nuclear activity of the primary galaxy strongly depends on the nucleus separation, such that the nucleus is more active as the two nuclei approach each other. Dual Active Galactic Nuclei systems can still possibly be formed by minor mergers of galaxies, though the time duration for dual Active Galactic Nuclei is only ∼ 0.011 Gyr and ∼ 0.017 Gyr with Eddington ratio of fEdd > 0.05 and bolometric luminosity > 1044 erg s−1. This time period is typically shorter than that of dual Active Galactic Nuclei induced by major galaxy mergers.
Keywords galaxies: binary — quasars: general — methods: n-body simulations
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