Black hole mass estimation for active galactic nuclei from a new angle

Dalya Baron, Brice Ménard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The scaling relations between supermassive black holes and their host galaxy properties are of fundamental importance in the context black hole-host galaxy co-evolution throughout cosmic time. In this work, we use a novel algorithm that identifies smooth trends in complex data sets and apply it to a sample of 2000 type 1 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) spectra. We detect a sequence in emission line shapes and strengths which reveals a correlation between the narrow L([O iii])/L(H β) line ratio and the width of the broad H α. This scaling relation ties the kinematics of the gas clouds in the broad line region to the ionization state of the narrow line region, connecting the properties of gas clouds kiloparsecs away from the black hole to material gravitationally bound to it on sub-parsec scales. This relation can be used to estimate black hole masses from narrow emission lines only. It therefore enables black hole mass estimation for obscured type 2 AGNs and allows us to explore the connection between black holes and host galaxy properties for thousands of objects, well beyond the local Universe. Using this technique, we present the MBH-σ and MBH-M scaling relations for a sample of about 10 000 type 2 AGNs from Sloan Digital Sky Survey. These relations are remarkably consistent with those observed for type 1 AGNs, suggesting that this new method may perform as reliably as the classical estimate used in non-obscured type 1 AGNs. These findings open a new window for studies of black hole-host galaxy co-evolution throughout cosmic time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3404-3418
Number of pages15
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 11 Aug 2019


  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: evolution
  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • quasars: emission lines
  • quasars: general
  • quasars: supermassive black holes


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