Low redshift AGN in the Hamburg/ESO Survey *
II. The active black hole mass function and the distribution function of Eddington ratios
Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam, An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 12 April 2010
We estimated black hole masses and Eddington ratios (L/LEdd) for a well defined sample of local (z < 0.3) broad line AGN from the Hamburg/ESO Survey (HES), based on the Hβ line and standard recipes assuming virial equilibrium for the broad line region. The sample represents the low-redshift AGN population over a wide range of luminosities, from Seyfert 1 galaxies to luminous quasars. From the distribution of black hole masses we derived the active black hole mass function (BHMF) and the Eddington ratio distribution function (ERDF) in the local universe, exploiting the fact that the HES has a well-defined selection function. While the directly determined ERDF turns over around L/LEdd ~ 0.1, similar to what has been seen in previous analyses, we argue that this is an artefact of the sample selection. We employed a maximum likelihood approach to estimate the intrinsic distribution functions of black hole masses and Eddington ratios simultaneously in an unbiased way, taking the sample selection function fully into account. The resulting ERDF is well described by a Schechter function, with evidence for a steady increase towards lower Eddington ratios, qualitatively similar to what has been found for type 2 AGN from the SDSS. Comparing our best-fit active BHMF with the mass function of inactive black holes we obtained an estimate of the fraction of active black holes, i.e. an estimate of the AGN duty cycle. The active fraction decreases strongly with increasing black hole mass. A comparison with the BHMF at higher redshifts also indicates that, at the high mass end, black holes are now in a less active stage than at earlier cosmic epochs. Our results support the notion of anti-hierarchical growth of black holes, and are consistent with a picture where the most massive black holes grew at early cosmic times, whereas at present mainly smaller mass black holes accrete at a significant rate.
Key words: galaxies: active / galaxies: nuclei / quasars: general
© ESO, 2010