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Creators/Authors contains: "Schneider, Donald P."

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  1. Abstract

    “Changing-look” active galactic nuclei (CL-AGNs) challenge our basic ideas about the physics of accretion flows and circumnuclear gas around supermassive black holes. Using first-year Sloan Digital Sky Survey V (SDSS-V) repeated spectroscopy of nearly 29,000 previously known active galactic nuclei (AGNs), combined with dedicated follow-up spectroscopy, and publicly available optical light curves, we have identified 116 CL-AGNs where (at least) one broad emission line has essentially (dis-)appeared, as well as 88 other extremely variable systems. Our CL-AGN sample, with 107 newly identified cases, is the largest reported to date, and includes ∼0.4% of the AGNs reobserved in first-year SDSS-V operations. Among our CL-AGNs, 67% exhibit dimming while 33% exhibit brightening. Our sample probes extreme AGN spectral variability on months to decades timescales, including some cases of recurring transitions on surprisingly short timescales (≲2 months in the rest frame). We find that CL events are preferentially found in lower-Eddington-ratio (fEdd) systems: Our CL-AGNs have afEdddistribution that significantly differs from that of a carefully constructed, redshift- and luminosity-matched control sample (Anderson–Darling test yieldingpAD≈ 6 × 10−5; medianfEdd≈ 0.025 versus 0.043). This preference for lowfEddstrengthens previous findings of higher CL-AGN incidence at lowerfEdd, found in smaller samples. Finally, we show that the broad Mgiiemission line in our CL-AGN sample tends to vary significantly less than the broad Hβemission line. Our large CL-AGN sample demonstrates the advantages and challenges in using multi-epoch spectroscopy from large surveys to study extreme AGN variability and physics.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 26, 2025
  2. Abstract

    We explore reprocessing models for a sample of 17 hypervariable quasars, taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping project, which all show coordinated optical luminosity hypervariability with amplitudes of factors ≳2 between 2014 and 2020. We develop and apply reprocessing models for quasar light curves in simple geometries that are likely to be representative of quasar inner environments. In addition to the commonly investigated thin-disk model, we include the thick-disk and hemisphere geometries. The thick-disk geometry could, for instance, represent a magnetically elevated disk, whereas the hemisphere model can be interpreted as a first-order approximation for any optically thick out-of-plane material caused by outflows/winds, warped/tilted disks, and so on. Of the 17 quasars in our sample, 11 are best-fitted by a hemisphere geometry, five are classified as thick disks, and both models fail for just one object. We highlight the successes and shortcomings of our thermal reprocessing models in case studies of four quasars that are representative of the sample. While reprocessing is unlikely to explain all of the variability that we observe in quasars, we present our classification scheme as a starting point for revealing the likely geometries of reprocessing for quasars in our sample and hypervariable quasars in general.

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  3. Abstract

    We measure the correlation between black hole massMBHand host stellar massM*for a sample of 38 broad-line quasars at 0.2 ≲z≲ 0.8 (median redshiftzmed= 0.5). The black hole masses are derived from a dedicated reverberation mapping program for distant quasars, and the stellar masses are derived from two-band optical+IR Hubble Space Telescope imaging. Most of these quasars are well centered within ≲1 kpc from the host galaxy centroid, with only a few cases in merging/disturbed systems showing larger spatial offsets. Our sample spans two orders of magnitude in stellar mass (∼109–1011M) and black hole mass (∼107–109M) and reveals a significant correlation between the two quantities. We find a best-fit intrinsic (i.e., selection effects corrected)MBHM*,hostrelation oflog(MBH/M)=7.010.33+0.23+1.740.64+0.64log(M*,host/1010M), with an intrinsic scatter of0.470.17+0.24dex. Decomposing our quasar hosts into bulges and disks, there is a similarMBHM*,bulgerelation with slightly larger scatter, likely caused by systematic uncertainties in the bulge–disk decomposition. TheMBHM*,hostrelation atzmed= 0.5 is similar to that in local quiescent galaxies, with negligible evolution over the redshift range probed by our sample. With direct black hole masses from reverberation mapping and the large dynamical range of the sample, selection biases do not appear to affect our conclusions significantly. Our results, along with other samples in the literature, suggest that the locally measured black hole mass–host stellar mass relation is already in place atz∼ 1.

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  4. Abstract

    This work studies the relationship between accretion-disk size and quasar properties, using a sample of 95 quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping Project with measured lags between thegandiphotometric bands. Our sample includes disk lags that are both longer and shorter than predicted by the Shakura and Sunyaev model, requiring explanations that satisfy both cases. Although our quasars each have one lag measurement, we explore the wavelength-dependent effects of diffuse broad-line region (BLR) contamination through our sample’s broad redshift range, 0.1 <z< 1.2. We do not find significant evidence of variable diffuse Feiiand Balmer nebular emission in the rms spectra, nor from Anderson–Darling tests of quasars in redshift ranges with and without diffuse nebular emission falling in the observed-frame filters. Contrary to previous work, we do not detect a significant correlation between the measured continuum and BLR lags in our luminous quasar sample, similarly suggesting that our continuum lags are not dominated by diffuse nebular emission. Similar to other studies, we find that quasars with larger-than-expected continuum lags have lower 3000 Å luminosities, and we additionally find longer continuum lags with lower X-ray luminosities and black hole masses. Our lack of evidence for diffuse BLR contribution to the lags indicates that the anticorrelation between continuum lag and luminosity is not likely to be due to the Baldwin effect. Instead, these anticorrelations favor models in which the continuum lag increases in lower-luminosity active galactic nuclei, including scenarios featuring magnetic coupling between the accretion disk and X-ray corona, and/or ripples or rims in the disk.

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  5. Abstract

    The Hobby–Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) is designed to detect and measure the redshifts of more than 1 million Lyαemitting galaxies (LAEs) 1.88 <z< 3.52. In addition to its cosmological measurements, these data enable studies of Lyαspectral profiles and the underlying radiative transfer. Using the roughly half a million LAEs in the HETDEX Data Release 3, we stack various subsets to obtain the typical Lyαprofile for thez∼ 2–3 epoch and to understand their physical properties. We find clear absorption wings around Lyαemission, which extend ∼2000 km s−1both redward and blueward of the central line. Using far-UV spectra of nearby (0.002 <z< 0.182) LAEs in the COS Legacy Archive Spectroscopic Survey treasury and optical/near-IR spectra of 2.8 <z< 6.7 LAEs in the Multi Unit Spectroscopic-Wide survey, we observe absorption profiles in both redshift regimes. Dividing the sample by volume density shows that the troughs increase in higher-density regions. This trend suggests that the depth of the absorption is dependent on the local density of objects near the LAE, a geometry that is similar to damped Lyαsystems. Simple simulations of Lyαradiative transfer can produce similar troughs due to absorption of light from background sources by Higas surrounding the LAEs.

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  6. Abstract We used data from the Hobby–Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) to study the incidence of AGN in continuum-selected galaxies at z ∼ 3. From optical and infrared imaging in the 24 deg 2 Spitzer HETDEX Exploratory Large Area survey, we constructed a sample of photometric-redshift selected z ∼ 3 galaxies. We extracted HETDEX spectra at the position of 716 of these sources and used machine-learning methods to identify those which exhibited AGN-like features. The dimensionality of the spectra was reduced using an autoencoder, and the latent space was visualized through t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding. Gaussian mixture models were employed to cluster the encoded data and a labeled data set was used to label each cluster as either AGN, stars, high-redshift galaxies, or low-redshift galaxies. Our photometric redshift (photo z ) sample was labeled with an estimated 92% overall accuracy, an AGN accuracy of 83%, and an AGN contamination of 5%. The number of identified AGN was used to measure an AGN fraction for different magnitude bins. The ultraviolet (UV) absolute magnitude where the AGN fraction reaches 50% is M UV = −23.8. When combined with results in the literature, our measurements of AGN fraction imply that the bright end of the galaxy luminosity function exhibits a power law rather than exponential decline, with a relatively shallow faint-end slope for the z ∼ 3 AGN luminosity function. 
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  7. Abstract We report the characterization of 28 low-mass (0.02 M ⊙ ≤ M 2 ≤ 0.25 M ⊙ ) companions to Kepler objects of interest (KOIs), eight of which were previously designated confirmed planets. These objects were detected as transiting companions to Sunlike stars (G and F dwarfs) by the Kepler mission and are confirmed as single-lined spectroscopic binaries in the current work using the northern multiplexed Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment near-infrared spectrograph (APOGEE-N) as part of the third and fourth Sloan Digital Sky Surveys. We have observed hundreds of KOIs using APOGEE-N and collected a total of 43,175 spectra with a median of 19 visits and a median baseline of ∼1.9 yr per target. We jointly model the Kepler photometry and APOGEE-N radial velocities to derive fundamental parameters for this subset of 28 transiting companions. The radii for most of these low-mass companions are overinflated (by ∼10%) when compared to theoretical models. Tidally locked M dwarfs on short-period orbits show the largest amount of inflation, but inflation is also evident for companions that are well separated from the host star. We demonstrate that APOGEE-N data provide reliable radial velocities when compared to precise high-resolution spectrographs that enable detailed characterization of individual systems and the inference of orbital elements for faint ( H > 12) KOIs. The data from the entire APOGEE-KOI program are public and present an opportunity to characterize an extensive subset of the binary population observed by Kepler. 
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  8. Abstract

    The most reliable single-epoch supermassive black hole mass (MBH) estimates in quasars are obtained by using the velocity widths of low-ionization emission lines, typically the Hβλ4861 line. Unfortunately, this line is redshifted out of the optical band atz≈ 1, leavingMBHestimates to rely on proxy rest-frame ultraviolet (UV) emission lines, such as Civλ1549 or Mgiiλ2800, which contain intrinsic challenges when measuring, resulting in uncertainMBHestimates. In this work, we aim at correctingMBHestimates derived from the Civand Mgiiemission lines based on estimates derived from the Hβemission line. We find that employing the equivalent width of Civin derivingMBHestimates based on Mgiiand Civprovides values that are closest to those obtained from Hβ. We also provide prescriptions to estimateMBHvalues when only Civ, only Mgii, and both Civand Mgiiare measurable. We find that utilizing both emission lines, where available, reduces the scatter of UV-basedMBHestimates by ∼15% when compared to previous studies. Lastly, we discuss the potential of our prescriptions to provide more accurate and precise estimates ofMBHgiven a much larger sample of quasars at 3.20 ≲z≲ 3.50, where both Mgiiand Hβcan be measured in the same near-infrared spectrum.

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  9. Abstract

    We present the final data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Reverberation Mapping (RM) project, a precursor to the SDSS-V Black Hole Mapper RM program. This data set includes 11 yr photometric and 7 yr spectroscopic light curves for 849 broad-line quasars over a redshift range of 0.1 <z< 4.5 and a luminosity range ofLbol= 1044−47.5erg s−1, along with spectral and variability measurements. We report 23, 81, 125, and 110 RM lags (relative to optical continuum variability) for broad Hα, Hβ, Mgii, and Civusing the SDSS-RM sample, spanning much of the luminosity and redshift ranges of the sample. Using 30 low-redshift RM active galactic nuclei with dynamical-modeling black hole masses, we derive a new estimate of the average virial factor oflogf=0.62±0.07for the line dispersion measured from the rms spectrum. The intrinsic scatter of individual virial factors is 0.31 ± 0.07 dex, indicating a factor of 2 systematic uncertainty in RM black hole masses. Our lag measurements reveal significantRLrelations for Hβand Mgiiat high redshift, consistent with the latest measurements based on heterogeneous samples. While we are unable to robustly constrain the slope of theRLrelation for Civgiven the limited dynamic range in luminosity, we found substantially larger scatter in Civlags at fixedL1350. Using the SDSS-RM lag sample, we derive improved single-epoch (SE) mass recipes for Hβ, Mgii, and Civ, which are consistent with their respective RM masses as well as between the SE recipes from two different lines, over the luminosity range probed by our sample. The new Hβand Mgiirecipes are approximately unbiased estimators at given RM masses, but there are systematic biases in the Civrecipe. The intrinsic scatter of SE masses around RM masses is ∼0.45 dex for Hβand Mgii, increasing to ∼0.58 dex for Civ.

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  10. Abstract We created the APOGEE-GALEX-Gaia catalog to study white dwarf (WD) binaries. This database aims to create a minimally biased sample of WD binary systems identified from a combination of GALEX, Gaia, and APOGEE data to increase the number of WD binaries with orbital parameters and chemical compositions. We identify 3414 sources as WD binary candidates, with nondegenerate companions of spectral types between F and M, including main-sequence stars, main-sequence binaries, subgiants, sub-subgiants, red giants, and red clump stars. Among our findings are (a) a total of 1806 systems having inferred WD radii R < 25 R ⊕ , which constitute a more reliable group of WD binary candidates within the main sample; (b) a difference in the metallicity distribution function between WD binary candidates and the control sample of most luminous giants ( M H < −3.0); (c) the existence of a population of sub-subgiants with WD companions; (d) evidence for shorter periods in binaries that contain WDs compared to those that do not, as shown by the cumulative distributions of APOGEE radial velocity shifts; (e) evidence for systemic orbital evolution in a sample of 252 WD binaries with orbital periods, based on differences in the period distribution between systems with red clump, main-sequence binary, and sub-subgiant companions and systems with main-sequence or red giant companions; and (f) evidence for chemical enrichment during common envelope (CE) evolution, shown by lower metallicities in wide WD binary candidates ( P > 100 days) compared to post-CE ( P < 100 days) WD binary candidates. 
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