Near-infrared spectroscopy of high-redshift active galactic nuclei. I. A metallicity-accretion rate relationship

O. Shemmer, H. Netzer, R. Maiolino, E. Oliva, S. Croom, E. Corbett, L. D.I. Fabrizio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present new near-infrared spectroscopic measurements of the Hβ region for a sample of 29 luminous high-redshift quasars. We have measured the width of Hβ in those sources and added archival Hβ width measurements to create a sample of 92 active galactic nuclei (AGNs) for which Hβ width and rest-frame UV measurements of N V λ1240 and C IV λ1549 emission lines are available. Our sample spans 6 orders of magnitude in luminosity and includes 31 radio-loud AGNs. It also includes 10 narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxies and one broad absorption line quasar. We find that metallicity, indicated by the N v/C IV line ratio, is primarily correlated with accretion rate, which is a function of luminosity and Hβ line width. This may imply an intimate relation between starbursts, responsible for the metal enrichment of the nuclear gas, and AGN fueling, represented by the accretion rate. The correlation of metallicity with luminosity, or black hole (BH) mass, is weaker in contrast to recent results that were based on measurements of the width of C IV. We argue that using C IV as a proxy to Hβ in estimating MBH might be problematic and lead to spurious BH mass and accretion rate estimates in individual sources. We discuss the potential implications of our new result in the framework of the starburst-AGN connection and theories of BH growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-557
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2004


  • Galaxies: Abundances
  • Galaxies: Active
  • Galaxies: Nuclei
  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: Starburst
  • Quasars: Emission lines


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