The correlation of narrow line emission and X-ray luminosity in active galactic nuclei

H. Netzer*, V. Mainieri, P. Rosati, B. Trakhtenbrot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims. We combine emission line and X-ray luminosities for 45 sources from the Chandra Deep Field South (CDF-S), and seven HELLAS sources, to obtain a new sample of 52 X-ray selected type-II active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Eighteen of our sources are very luminous with a typical, absorption-corrected 2-10 keV luminosity of f ew × 1044 erg s-1 (type-II QSOs). Methods. We compare the emission line properties of the new sources with emission line and X-ray luminosities of known low redshift, mostly lower luminosity AGNs by using a composite spectrum. Results. We find that L [OIII]/L2-10 and L[OII]/L2-10 decrease with L(2-10 keV) such that L[OIII]/L2-10 ∝ L2-10-0.42. The trend was already evident, yet neglected in past low redshift samples. This lead to erroneous calibration of the line-to-X-ray luminosity in earlier AGN samples. The analysis of several type-I samples shows the same trend with a similar slope but a median L [OIII]/L2-10 which is larger by a factor of about two compared with optically selected type-II samples. We interpret this shift as due to additional reddening in type-II sources and comment in general on the very large extinction in many type-II objects and the significantly smaller average reddening of the SDSS type-II AGNs. The decrease of L[OIII]/L 2-10 with L(2-10 keV) is large enough to suggest that a significant fraction of high luminosity high redshift type-II AGNs have very weak emission lines that may have escaped detection in large samples. A related decrease of EW([Q III] λ5007) with optical continuum luminosity is demonstrated by an analysis of 12 000 type-I SDSS AGNs. The new correlations found here are important for deriving accurate luminosity functions for AGNs and their neglect may explain past discrepancies between emission line and X-ray samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Galaxies: Active
  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Quasars: Emission lines
  • X-rays: Galaxies


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