CONTEXT: For nearly seven decades, astronomers have been studying active galaxies, that is to say, galaxies with actively accreting central supermassive black holes: active galactic nuclei (AGN). A small fraction are characterized by luminous, powerful radio emission: This class is known as radio-loud AGN. A substantial fraction, the so-called radio-quiet AGN population, display intermediate or weak radio emission. However, an appreciable fraction of strong X-ray-emitting AGN are characterized by the absence of radio emission, down to an upper limit of about 10−7 times the luminosity of the most powerful radio-loud AGN.
AIMS: We wish to address the nature of these – seemingly radio-silent – X-ray-luminous AGN and their host galaxies to determine if there is any radio emission, and, if so, where it originates.
METHODS: Focusing on the GOODS-N field, we examine the nature of these objects, employing stacking techniques on ultra-deep radio data obtained with the JVLA. We combine these radio data with Spitzer far-infrared data.
RESULTS: We establish the absence, or totally insignificant contribution, of jet-driven radio emission in roughly half of the otherwise normal population of X-ray-luminous AGN, which appear to reside in normal star-forming galaxies.
Conclusions. AGN- or jet-driven radio emission is simply a mechanism that may be at work or may be dormant in galaxies with actively accreting black holes. The latter cases can be classified as radio-silent AGN.