Hot Dust in Panchromatic SED Fitting: Identification of Active Galactic Nuclei and Improved Galaxy Properties

Joel Leja, Benjamin D. Johnson, Charlie Conroy, Pieter Van Dokkum

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50 Scopus citations


Forward modeling of the full galaxy SED is a powerful technique, providing self-consistent constraints on stellar ages, dust properties, and metallicities. However, the accuracy of these results is contingent on the accuracy of the model. One significant source of uncertainty is the contribution of obscured AGN, as they are relatively common and can produce substantial mid-IR (MIR) emission. Here we include emission from dusty AGN torii in the Prospector SED-fitting framework, and fit the UV-IR broadband photometry of 129 nearby galaxies. We find that 10% of the fitted galaxies host an AGN contributing >10% of the observed galaxy MIR luminosity. We demonstrate the necessity of this AGN component in the following ways. First, we compare observed spectral features to spectral features predicted from our model fit to the photometry. We find that the AGN component greatly improves predictions for observed Hα and Hβ luminosities, as well as mid-infrared Akari and Spitzer/IRS spectra. Second, we show that inclusion of the AGN component changes stellar ages and SFRs by up to a factor of 10, and dust attenuations by up to a factor of 2.5. Finally, we show that the strength of our model AGN component correlates with independent AGN indicators, suggesting that these galaxies truly host AGN. Notably, only 46% of the SED-detected AGN would be detected with a simple MIR color selection. Based on these results, we conclude that SED models which fit MIR data without AGN components are vulnerable to substantial bias in their derived parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number62
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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