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    We study the optical variability of a sample of candidate low-mass (dwarf and Seyfert) active galactic nuclei (AGNs) using Zwicky Transient Facility g-band light curves. Our sample is compiled from broad-line AGNs in dwarf galaxies reported in the literature with single-epoch virial black hole (BH) masses in the range MBH ∼ 104–108 M⊙. We measure the characteristic ‘damping’ time-scale of the optical variability τDRW, beyond which the power spectral density flattens, of a final sample of 79 candidate low-mass AGNs with high-quality light curves. Our results provide further confirmation of the MBH–τDRW relation from previous work within 1σ agreement, adding 78 new low-mass AGNs to the relation. The agreement suggests that the virial BH mass estimates for these AGNs are generally reasonable. We expect that the optical light curve of an accreting intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) to vary with a rest-frame damping time-scale of ∼tens of hours, which could enable detection and direct mass estimation of accreting IMBHs in wide-field time-domain imaging surveys with sufficient cadence like with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

  2. Abstract

    We present a catalog of continuum and emission-line properties for 750,414 broad-line quasars included in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 16 quasar catalog (DR16Q), measured from optical spectroscopy. These quasars cover broad ranges in redshift (0.1 ≲z≲ 6) and luminosity (44 ≲ log(Lbol/erg s−1) ≲ 48), and probe lower luminosities than an earlier compilation of SDSS DR7 quasars. Derived physical quantities such as single-epoch virial black hole masses and bolometric luminosities are also included in this catalog. We present improved systemic redshifts and realistic redshift uncertainties for DR16Q quasars using the measured line peaks and correcting for velocity shifts of various lines with respect to the systemic velocity. About 1%, 1.4%, and 11% of the original DR16Q redshifts deviate from the systemic redshifts by ∣ΔV∣ > 1500 km s−1, ∣ΔV∣ ∈ [1000, 1500] km s−1, and ∣ΔV∣ ∈ [500, 1000] km s−1, respectively; about 1900 DR16Q redshifts were catastrophically wrong (∣ΔV∣ > 10,000 km s−1). We demonstrate the utility of this data product in quantifying the spectral diversity and correlations among physical properties of quasars with large statistical samples.


    We examine the dual [both black hole (BH) active] and offset (one BH active and in distinct galaxies) active galactic nucleus (AGN) population (comprising ∼ 2000 pairs at $0.5\, \text{kpc}\lesssim \Delta r\lt 30\, \text{kpc}$) at z = 2 ∼ 3 in the ASTRID simulation covering (360 cMpc)3. The dual (offset) AGN make up 3.0(0.5) per cent of all AGN at z = 2. The dual fraction is roughly constant while the offset fraction increases by a factor of 10 from z = 4 ∼ 2. Compared with the full AGN population, duals are characterized by low MBH/M* ratios, high specific star formation rates (sSFR) of $\sim 1\, \text{Gyr}^{-1}$, and high Eddington ratios (∼0.05, double that of single AGN). Dual AGNs are formed in major galaxy mergers (typically involving $M_\text{halo}\lt 10^{13}\, M_\odot$), with simular-mass BHs. At small separations (when host galaxies are in the late phase of the merger), duals become 2 ∼ 8 times brighter (albeit more obscured) than at larger separations. 80  per cent of the bright, close duals would merge within $\sim 500\, \text{Myr}$. Notably, the initially less-massive BHs in duals frequently become the brighter AGN during galaxy mergers. In offset AGN, the active BH is typically ≳ 10 times more massive than its non-activemore »counterpart and than most BHs in duals. Offsets are predominantly formed in minor galaxy mergers with the active BH residing in the centre of massive haloes ($M_\text{ halo}\sim 10^{13-14}\, \mathrm{M}_\odot$). In these deep potentials, gas stripping is common and the secondary quickly deactivates. The stripping also leads to inefficient orbital decay amongst offsets, which stall at $\Delta r\sim 5\, \text{kpc}$ for a few hundred Myrs.

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  4. Abstract

    The statistics of galactic-scale quasar pairs can elucidate our understanding of the dynamical evolution of supermassive black hole (SMBH) pairs, the duty cycles of quasar activity in mergers, or even the nature of dark matter, but they have been challenging to measure at cosmic noon, the prime epoch of massive galaxy and SMBH formation. Here we measure a double quasar fraction of ∼6.2 ± 0.5 × 10−4integrated over ∼0.″3–3″ separations (projected physical separations of ∼3–30 kpc atz∼ 2) in luminous (Lbol> 1045.8erg s−1) unobscured quasars at 1.5 <z< 3.5 using Gaia EDR3-resolved pairs around SDSS DR16 quasars. The measurement was based on a sample of 60 Gaia-resolved double quasars (out of 487 Gaia pairs dominated by quasar+star superpositions) at these separations, corrected for pair completeness in Gaia, which we quantify as functions of pair separation, magnitude of the primary, and magnitude contrast. The double quasar fraction increases toward smaller separations by a factor of ∼5 over these scales. The division between physical quasar pairs and lensed quasars in our sample is currently unknown, requiring dedicated follow-up observations (in particular, deep, subarcsecond-resolution IR imaging for the closest pairs). Intriguingly, at this point, the observed pair statistics are in rough agreementmore »with theoretical predictions both for the lensed quasar population in mock catalogs and for dual quasars in cosmological hydrodynamic simulations. Upcoming wide-field imaging/spectroscopic space missions such as Euclid, CSST, and Roman, combined with targeted follow-up observations, will conclusively measure the abundances and host galaxy properties of galactic-scale quasar pairs, offset AGNs, and subarcsecond lensed quasars across cosmic time.

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  5. ABSTRACT We study the demographics of z ∼ 6 broad-line quasars in the black hole (BH) mass–luminosity plane using a sample of more than 100 quasars at 5.7 < z < 6.5. These quasars have well-quantified selection functions and nearly one-third of them also have virial BH masses estimated from near-IR spectroscopy. We use forward modelling of parametrized intrinsic distributions of BH masses and Eddington ratios, and account for the sample flux limits and measurement uncertainties of the BH masses and luminosities. We find significant differences between the intrinsic and observed distributions of the quantities due to measurement uncertainties and sample flux limits. There is also marginal evidence that the virial BH masses are susceptible to a positive luminosity-dependent bias (BH mass is overestimated when luminosity is above the average), and that the mean Eddington ratio increases with BH mass. Our models provide reliable constraints on the z ∼ 6 BH mass function at $M_{\rm BH}\gt 10^{8.5}\, M_\odot$, with a median 1σ uncertainty of ∼0.5 dex in abundance. The intrinsic Eddington ratio distribution of $M_{\rm BH}\gt 10^{8.5}\, M_\odot$ quasars can be approximated by a mass-dependent Schechter model, with a broad peak around log (Lbol/LEdd) ∼ −0.9. We also find that, atmore »4.5 ≲ z ≲ 6, the number densities of more massive BHs tend to decline more rapidly with increasing redshift, contrary to the trend at 2.5 ≲ z ≲ 4.5 reported previously.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 18, 2023
  6. Abstract

    We present a high-cadence multiepoch analysis of dramatic variability of three broad emission lines (Mgii, Hβ, and Hα) in the spectra of the luminous quasar (λLλ(5100 Å) = 4.7 × 1044erg s−1) SDSS J141041.25+531849.0 atz= 0.359 with 127 spectroscopic epochs over nine years of monitoring (2013–2022). We observe anticorrelations between the broad emission-line widths and flux in all three emission lines, indicating that all three broad emission lines “breathe” in response to stochastic continuum variations. We also observe dramatic radial velocity shifts in all three broad emission lines, ranging from Δv∼ 400 km s−1to ∼800 km s−1, that vary over the course of the monitoring period. Our preferred explanation for the broad-line variability is complex kinematics in the gas in the broad-line region. We suggest a model for the broad-line variability that includes a combination of gas inflow with a radial gradient, an azimuthal asymmetry (e.g., a hot spot), superimposed on the stochastic flux-driven changes to the optimal emission region (“line breathing”). Similar instances of line-profile variability due to complex gas kinematics around quasars are likely to represent an important source of false positives in radial velocity searches for binary black holes, which typically lack the kind of high-cadencemore »data we analyze here. The long-duration, wide-field, and many-epoch spectroscopic monitoring of SDSS-V BHM-RM provides an excellent opportunity for identifying and characterizing broad emission-line variability, and the inferred nature of the inner gas environment, of luminous quasars.

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  7. Abstract

    Dual supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at ∼kiloparsec scales are the progenitor population of SMBH mergers and play an important role in understanding the pairing and dynamical evolution of massive black holes in galaxy mergers. Because of the stringent resolution requirement and the apparent rareness of these small-separation pairs, there are scarce observational constraints on this population, with few confirmed dual SMBHs at <10 kpc separations atz> 1. Here we present results from a pilot search for kiloparsec-scale dual quasars selected with Gaia Data release 2 (DR2) astrometry and followed up with Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Camera 3 dual-band (F475W and F814W) snapshot imaging. Our targets are quasars primarily selected with the varstrometry technique, i.e., light centroid jitter caused by asynchronous variability from both members in an unresolved quasar pair, supplemented by subarcsecond pairs already resolved by Gaia DR2. We find an overall high fraction of HST-resolved pairs among the varstrometry-selected quasars (unresolved in Gaia DR2), ∼30%–50%, increasing toward high redshift (∼60%–80% atz> 1.5). We discuss the nature of the 45 resolved subarcsecond pairs based on HST and supplementary data. A substantial fraction (∼40%) of these pairs are likely physical quasar pairs or gravitationally lensed quasars. We alsomore »discover a triple quasar candidate and a quadruply lensed quasar, which is among the smallest-separation quadruple lenses. These results provide important guidelines to improve varstrometry selection and follow-up confirmation of ~kiloparsec-scale dual SMBHs at high redshift.

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