EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 424, Number 3, September IV 2004
Page(s) 793 - 798
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20035845

A&A 424, 793-798 (2004)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20035845

Black hole mass estimation using a relation between the BLR size and emission line luminosity of AGN

X.-B. Wu, R. Wang, M. Z. Kong, F. K. Liu and J. L. Han

National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Department of Astronomy, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    e-mail: wuxb@bac.pku.edu.cn

(Received 11 December 2003 / Accepted 3 March 2004)

An empirical relation between the broad line region (BLR) size and optical continuum luminosity is often adopted to estimate the BLR size and then the black hole mass of AGNs. However, optical luminosity may not be a good indicator of photoionizing luminosity for extremely radio-loud AGNs because the jets usually contribute significantly to the optical continuum. Therefore, the black hole masses derived for blazar-type AGNs with this method are probably overestimated. Here we first derived a tight empirical relation between the BLR size and the H $_\beta$ emission line luminosity, $R({\rm light-days})= 24.05(L_{{\rm H}_\beta}/10^{42}$ ergs s -1)0.68, from a sample of 34 AGNs with the BLR size estimated with the reverberation mapping technique. Then we applied this relation to estimate the black hole masses of some AGNs and found that for many extremely radio-loud AGNs the black hole masses obtained with the $R-L_{\rm H_\beta}$ relation are systematically lower than those derived previously with the $R-L_{5100~{\rm\AA}}$ relation, while for radio-quiet and slightly radio-loud AGNs the results obtained with these two methods are almost the same. The difference of black hole masses estimated with these two relations increases with the radio-loudness for extremely radio-loud AGNs, which is consistent with the fact that their equivalent widths of the H $_\beta$ emission line become smaller at greater radio-loudness. If the small H $_\beta$ equivalent widths of extremely radio-loud  AGNs are indeed caused by the beaming effect, we argue that the optical emission line luminosity may be a better tracer of ionizing luminosity for blazar-type AGNs and the black hole masses derived with the $R-L_{\rm H_\beta}$ relation are probably more accurate.

Key words: black hole physics -- galaxies: active -- galaxies: nuclei -- quasars: general -- quasars: emission lines

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