The host galaxies of high-redshift quasars
AuthorMarshall, Madeline Anne
AffiliationSchool of Physics
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Madeline Anne Marshall
In the early Universe, we observe supermassive black holes with masses of up to a billion times the mass of the Sun, accreting at or even above the Eddington limit. These high-redshift quasars are some of the most luminous objects in the Universe, and raise many questions about the formation and growth of the first black holes. Investigating their host galaxies provides a useful probe for understanding these high-redshift quasars. In the local Universe, there are clear correlations between the mass of a supermassive black hole and the properties of its host galaxy, indicating a black hole--galaxy co-evolution. Exploring how these black hole--host relations evolve with redshift can give valuable insights into why these relations exist. Studying the host galaxies of high-redshift quasars thus provides vital insights into the early growth of supermassive black holes and the black hole--galaxy connection. In this thesis I use three techniques to study the host galaxies of high-redshift quasars: the Meraxes semi-analytic model, the BlueTides hydrodynamical simulation, and observations with the Hubble Space Telescope. Meraxes is a semi-analytic model designed to study galaxy formation and evolution at high redshift. Using this model, I study the sizes, angular momenta and morphologies of high-redshift galaxies. I also use Meraxes to study the evolution of black holes and their host galaxies from high redshift to the present day. The model predicts no significant evolution in the black hole--host mass relations out to high redshift, with the growth of galaxies and black holes tightly related even in the early Universe. I also examine the growth mechanisms of black holes in Meraxes, finding that the majority of black hole growth is caused by internal disc instabilities, and not by galaxy mergers. I then use the BlueTides cosmological hydrodynamical simulation to investigate the detailed properties of quasar host galaxies at z=7. I find that the hosts of quasars are generally highly star-forming and bulge dominated, and are significantly more compact than the typical high-redshift galaxy. Using BlueTides I make predictions for observations of quasars with the James Webb Space Telescope, finding that detecting quasar hosts at these redshifts may be possible, but will still be challenging with this groundbreaking instrument. Finally, I use observations from the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain deep upper limits on the rest-frame ultraviolet luminosities of six z~6 quasars. I also detect up to 9 potential companion galaxies surrounding these quasars, which may be interacting with their host galaxies. Observations with the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope are needed to detect quasar host galaxies in the rest-frame ultraviolet and optical for the first time.
Keywordsastrophysics; quasars; supermassive black holes; host galaxies; high-redshift; active galactic nuclei; galaxies; galaxy evolution
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