BASS. XXIX. the Near-infrared View of the Broad-line Region (BLR): The Effects of Obscuration in BLR Characterization

Federica Ricci*, Ezequiel Treister, Franz E. Bauer, Julian E. Mejía-Restrepo, Michael J. Koss, Jakob S. Den Brok, Mislav Baloković, Rudolf Bär, Patricia Bessiere, Turgay Caglar, Fiona Harrison, Kohei Ichikawa, Darshan Kakkad, Isabella Lamperti, Richard Mushotzky, Kyuseok Oh, Meredith C. Powell, George C. Privon, Claudio Ricci, Rogerio RiffelAlejandra F. Rojas, Eleonora Sani, Krista L. Smith, Daniel Stern, Benny Trakhtenbrot, C. Megan Urry, Sylvain Veilleux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virial black hole (BH) mass (M BH) determination directly involves knowing the broad-line region (BLR) clouds' velocity distribution, their distance from the central supermassive BH (R BLR), and the virial factor (f). Understanding whether biases arise in M BH estimation with increasing obscuration is possible only by studying a large (N > 100) statistical sample of obscuration-unbiased (hard) X-ray-selected active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in the rest-frame near-infrared (0.8-2.5 μm) since it penetrates deeper into the BLR than the optical. We present a detailed analysis of 65 local Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) selected Seyfert galaxies observed with Magellan/FIRE. Adding these to the near-infrared BAT AGN spectroscopic survey database, we study a total of 314 unique near-infrared spectra. While the FWHMs of Hα and near-infrared broad lines (He i, Paβ, Paα) remain unbiased to either BLR extinction or X-ray obscuration, the Hα broad-line luminosity is suppressed when N H ≳ 1021 cm-2, systematically underestimating M BH by 0.23-0.46 dex. Near-infrared line luminosities should be preferred to Hα until N H < 1022 cm-2, while at higher obscuration a less-biased R BLR proxy should be adopted. We estimate f for Seyfert 1 and 2 using two obscuration-unbiased M BH measurements, i.e., the stellar velocity dispersion and a BH mass prescription based on near-infrared and X-ray, and find that the virial factors do not depend on the redshift or obscuration, but some broad lines show a mild anticorrelation with M BH. Our results show the critical impact obscuration can have on BLR characterization and the importance of the near-infrared and X-rays for a less-biased view of the BLR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022


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