EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 456, Number 1, September II 2006
Page(s) 75 - 90
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20064878
Published online 23 August 2006

A&A 456, 75-90 (2006)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20064878

Systematic effects in measurement of black hole masses by emission-line reverberation of active galactic nuclei: Eddington ratio and inclination

S. Collin1, T. Kawaguchi2, B. M. Peterson3 and M. Vestergaard4

1  LUTH, Observatoire de Paris, Section de Meudon, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
    e-mail: suzy.collin@obspm.fr
2  Optical and Infrared Division, NAOJ, Mitaka, Tokyo 181-8588, Japan
3  Department of Astronomy, The Ohio State University, 140 West 18th Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
4  Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, 933 N. Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

(Received 18 January 2006 / Accepted 24 March 2006)

Context.Scatter around the relationship between central black hole masses in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) obtained by reverberation-mapping methods and host-galaxy bulge velocity dispersion indicates that the masses are uncertain typically by a factor of about three.
Aims.In this paper, we try to identify the sources and systematics of this uncertainty.
Methods.We characterize the broad H$\beta$ emission-line profiles by the ratio of their full-width at half maximum (FWHM) to their line dispersion, i.e., the second moment of the line profile. We use this parameter to separate the reverberation-mapped AGNs into two populations, the first with narrower H$\beta$ lines that tend to have relatively extended wings, and the second with broader lines that are relatively flat-topped. The first population is characterized by higher Eddington ratios than the second. Within each population, we calibrate the black-hole mass scale by comparison of the reverberation-based mass with that predicted by the bulge velocity dispersion. We also use the distribution of ratios of the reverberation-based mass to the velocity-dispersion mass prediction in a comparison with a "generalized thick disk" model in order to see if inclination can plausibly account for the observed distribution.
Results.We find that the line dispersion is a less biased parameter in general than FWHM for black hole mass estimation, although we show that it is possible to empirically correct for the bias introduced by using FWHM to characterize the emission-line width. We also argue that inclination effects are apparent only in some small subset of the reverberation-based mass measurements; it is primarily the objects with the narrowest emission lines that seem to be most strongly affected.
Conclusions.Our principal conclusion is that the H$\beta$ profile is sensitive primarily to Eddington ratio, but that inclination effects play a role in some cases.

Key words: galaxies: quasars: general -- galaxies: nuclei -- galaxies: Seyfert

© ESO 2006

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