skip to main content

Title: Systematically smaller single-epoch quasar black hole masses using a radius–luminosity relationship corrected for spectral bias

Determining black hole masses and accretion rates with better accuracy and precision is crucial for understanding quasars as a population. These are fundamental physical properties that underpin models of active galactic nuclei. A primary technique to measure the black hole mass employs the reverberation mapping of low-redshift quasars, which is then extended via the radius–luminosity relationship for the broad-line region to estimate masses based on single-epoch spectra. An updated radius–luminosity relationship incorporates the flux ratio of optical Fe ii to H β ($\equiv \mathcal {R}_{\rm Fe}$) to correct for a bias in which more highly accreting systems have smaller line-emitting regions than previously realized. In this work, we demonstrate and quantify the effect of using this Fe-corrected radius-luminosity relationship on mass estimation by employing archival data sets possessing rest-frame optical spectra over a wide range of redshifts. We find that failure to use an Fe-corrected radius predictor results in overestimated single-epoch black hole masses for the most highly accreting quasars. Their accretion rate measures (LBol/LEdd and $\dot{\mathscr{M}}$ ) are similarly underestimated. The strongest Fe-emitting quasars belong to two classes: high-z quasars with rest-frame optical spectra, which, given their extremely high luminosities, require high accretion rates, and their low-z analogues, which, more » given their low black holes masses, must have high accretion rates to meet survey flux limits. These classes have mass corrections downward of about a factor of two, on average. These results strengthen the association of the dominant Eigenvector 1 parameter $\mathcal {R}_{\rm Fe}$ with the accretion process.

« less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 491-506
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this

    The elemental abundances in the broad-line regions of high-redshift quasars trace the chemical evolution in the nuclear regions of massive galaxies in the early Universe. In this work, we study metallicity-sensitive broad emission-line flux ratios in rest-frame UV spectra of 25 high-redshift (5.8 < z < 7.5) quasars observed with the VLT/X-shooter and Gemini/GNIRS instruments, ranging over $\log \left({{M}_{\rm {BH}}/\rm {M}_{\odot }}\right) = 8.4-9.8$ in black hole mass and $\log \left(\rm {L}_{\rm {bol}}/\rm {erg \, s}^{-1}\right) = 46.7-47.7$ in bolometric luminosity. We fit individual spectra and composites generated by binning across quasar properties: bolometric luminosity, black hole mass, and blueshift of the C iv line, finding no redshift evolution in the emission-line ratios by comparing our high-redshift quasars to lower redshift (2.0 < z < 5.0) results presented in the literature. Using cloudy-based locally optimally emitting cloud photoionization model relations between metallicity and emission-line flux ratios, we find the observable properties of the broad emission lines to be consistent with emission from gas clouds with metallicity that are at least 2–4 times solar. Our high-redshift measurements also confirm that the blueshift of the C iv emission line is correlated with its equivalent width, which influences line ratios normalized against C iv. When accountingmore »for the C iv blueshift, we find that the rest-frame UV emission-line flux ratios do not correlate appreciably with the black hole mass or bolometric luminosity.

    « less
  2. Abstract We report the results of near-infrared spectroscopic observations of 37 quasars in the redshift range 6.3 < z ≤ 7.64, including 32 quasars at z > 6.5, forming the largest quasar near-infrared spectral sample at this redshift. The spectra, taken with Keck, Gemini, VLT, and Magellan, allow investigations of central black hole mass and quasar rest-frame ultraviolet spectral properties. The black hole masses derived from the Mg ii emission lines are in the range (0.3–3.6) × 10 9 M ⊙ , which requires massive seed black holes with masses ≳10 3 –10 4 M ⊙ , assuming Eddington accretion since z = 30. The Eddington ratio distribution peaks at λ Edd ∼ 0.8 and has a mean of 1.08, suggesting high accretion rates for these quasars. The C iv –Mg ii emission-line velocity differences in our sample show an increase of C iv blueshift toward higher redshift, but the evolutionary trend observed from this sample is weaker than the previous results from smaller samples at similar redshift. The Fe ii /Mg ii flux ratios derived for these quasars up to z = 7.6, compared with previous measurements at different redshifts, do not show any evidence of strong redshift evolution,more »suggesting metal-enriched environments in these quasars. Using this quasar sample, we create a quasar composite spectrum for z > 6.5 quasars and find no significant redshift evolution of quasar broad emission lines and continuum slope, except for a blueshift of the C iv line. Our sample yields a strong broad absorption line quasar fraction of ∼24%, higher than the fractions in lower-redshift quasar samples, although this could be affected by small sample statistics and selection effects.« less
  3. Abstract Quasar black hole masses are most commonly estimated using broad emission lines in single epoch spectra based on scaling relationships determined from reverberation mapping of small samples of low-redshift objects. Several effects have been identified requiring modifications to these scaling relationships, resulting in significant reductions of the black hole mass determinations at high redshift. Correcting these systematic biases is critical to understanding the relationships among black hole and host galaxy properties. We are completing a program using the Gemini North telescope, called the Gemini North Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) Distant Quasar Survey (DQS), that has produced rest-frame optical spectra of about 200 high-redshift quasars (z = 1.5–3.5). The GNIRS-DQS will produce new and improved ultraviolet-based black hole mass and accretion rate prescriptions, as well as new redshift prescriptions for velocity zero points of high-z quasars, necessary to measure feedback.
  4. Abstract Studies of rest-frame optical emission in quasars at z > 6 have historically been limited by the wavelengths accessible by ground-based telescopes. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) now offers the opportunity to probe this emission deep into the reionization epoch. We report the observations of eight quasars at z > 6.5 using the JWST/NIRCam Wide Field Slitless Spectroscopy as a part of the “A SPectroscopic survey of biased halos In the Reionization Era (ASPIRE)” program. Our JWST spectra cover the quasars’ emission between rest frame ∼4100 and 5100 Å. The profiles of these quasars’ broad H β emission lines span a full width at half maximum from 3000 to 6000 km s −1 . The H β -based virial black hole (BH) masses, ranging from 0.6 to 2.1 billion solar masses, are generally consistent with their Mg ii -based BH masses. The new measurements based on the more reliable H β tracer thus confirm the existence of a billion solar-mass BHs in the reionization epoch. In the observed [O iii ] λ λ 4960,5008 doublets of these luminous quasars, broad components are more common than narrow core components (≤ 1200 km s −1 ), and only one quasarmore »shows stronger narrow components than broad. Two quasars exhibit significantly broad and blueshifted [O iii ] emission, thought to trace galactic-scale outflows, with median velocities of −610 and −1430 km s −1 relative to the [C ii ] 158 μ m line. All eight quasars show strong optical Fe ii emission and follow the eigenvector 1 relations defined by low-redshift quasars. The entire ASPIRE program will eventually cover 25 quasars and provide a statistical sample for the studies of the BHs and quasar spectral properties.« less
  5. Abstract

    Weak emission-line quasars (WLQs) are a subset of type 1 quasars that exhibit extremely weak Lyα+ Nvλ1240 and/or Civλ1549 emission lines. We investigate the relationship between emission-line properties and accretion rate for a sample of 230 “ordinary” type 1 quasars and 18 WLQs atz< 0.5 and 1.5 <z< 3.5 that have rest-frame ultraviolet and optical spectral measurements. We apply a correction to the Hβ-based black hole mass (MBH) estimates of these quasars using the strength of the optical Feiiemission. We confirm previous findings that WLQs’MBHvalues are overestimated by up to an order of magnitude using the traditional broad-emission-line region size–luminosity relation. With thisMBHcorrection, we find a significant correlation between Hβ-based Eddington luminosity ratios and a combination of the rest-frame Civequivalent width and Civblueshift with respect to the systemic redshift. This correlation holds for both ordinary quasars and WLQs, which suggests that the two-dimensional Civparameter space can serve as an indicator of accretion rate in all type 1 quasars across a wide range of spectral properties.