The NuSTAR Serendipitous Survey: Hunting for the Most Extreme Obscured AGN at >10 keV

G. B. Lansbury, D. M. Alexander, J. Aird, P. Gandhi, D. Stern, M. Koss, I. Lamperti, M. Ajello, A. Annuar, R. J. Assef, D. R. Ballantyne, M. Baloković, F. E. Bauer, W. N. Brandt, M. Brightman, C. T.J. Chen, F. Civano, A. Comastri, A. Del Moro, C. FuentesF. A. Harrison, S. Marchesi, A. Masini, J. R. Mullaney, C. Ricci, C. Saez, J. A. Tomsick, E. Treister, D. J. Walton, L. Zappacosta

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42 Scopus citations


We identify sources with extremely hard X-ray spectra (i.e., with photon indices of G ≲ 0.6) in the 13 deg2 NuSTAR serendipitous survey, to search for the most highly obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs) detected at >10 keV. Eight extreme NuSTAR sources are identified, and we use the NuSTAR data in combination with lower-energy X-ray observations (from Chandra, Swift XRT, and XMM-Newton) to characterize the broadband (0.5-24 keV) X-ray spectra. We find that all of the extreme sources are highly obscured AGNs, including three robust Compton-thick (CT; NH > 1.5 1024 cm-2) AGNs at low redshift (z < 0.1) and a likely CT AGN at higher redshift (z = 0.16). Most of the extreme sources would not have been identified as highly obscured based on the low-energy (<10 keV) X-ray coverage alone. The multiwavelength properties (e.g., optical spectra and X-ray-mid-IR luminosity ratios) provide further support for the eight sources being significantly obscured. Correcting for absorption, the intrinsic rest-frame 10-40 keV luminosities of the extreme sources cover a broad range, from 5 ×1042 to 1045 erg s-1. The estimated number counts of CT AGNs in the NuSTAR serendipitous survey are in broad agreement with model expectations based on previous X-ray surveys, except for the lowest redshifts (z < 0.07), where we measure a high CT fraction of fCT obs = 30 % -12 +16 . For the small sample of CT AGNs, we find a high fraction of galaxy major mergers (50% ± 33%) compared to control samples of "normal" AGNs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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