BAT AGN Spectroscopic Survey (BASS) - VI. The ΓX-L/LEdd relation

Benny Trakhtenbrot*, Claudio Ricci, Michael J. Koss, Kevin Schawinski, Richard Mushotzky, Yoshihiro Ueda, Sylvain Veilleux, Isabella Lamperti, Kyuseok Oh, Ezequiel Treister, Daniel Stern, Fiona Harrison, Mislav Baloković, Neil Gehrels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the relation between accretion rate (in terms of L/LEdd) and shape of the hard X-ray spectral energy distribution (namely the photon index Γx) for a large sample of 228 hard X-ray-selected, low-redshift active galactic nuclei (AGNs), drawn from the Swift/BAT AGN Spectroscopic Survey (BASS). This includes 30 AGNs for which black hole mass (and therefore L/LEdd) is measured directly through masers, spatially resolved gas or stellar dynamics, or reverberation mapping. The high-quality and broad energy coverage of the data provided through BASS allow us to examine several alternative determinations of both Γx and L/LEdd. For the BASS sample as a whole, we find a statistically significant, albeit very weak correlation between Γx and L/LEdd. The best-fitting relations we find, Γx ≃ 0.15 log L/LEdd + const., are considerably shallower than those reported in previous studies. Moreover, we find no corresponding correlations among the subsets of AGN with different MBH determination methodology. In particular, we find no robust evidence for a correlation when considering only those AGN with direct or single-epoch MBH estimates. This latter finding is in contrast to several previous studies which focused on z > 0.5 broad-line AGN.We discuss this tension and conclude that it can be partially accounted for if one adopts a simplified, power-law X-ray spectral model, combined with L/LEdd estimates that are based on the continuum emission and on single-epoch broad-line spectroscopy in the optical regime. We finally highlight the limitations on using Γx as a probe of supermassive black hole evolution in deep extragalactic X-ray surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800-814
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: active
  • Quasars: general
  • X-rays: galaxies


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