The analysis of the broad hydrogen Balmer line ratios: Possible implications for the physical properties of the broad line region of AGNs
Department of AstronomyFaculty of Mathematics, University of
Studentski trg 16,
2 Isaac Newton Institute of Chile, Yugoslavia Branch, 11060 Belgrade, Serbia
3 Astronomical Observatory, Volgina 7, 11160 Belgrade, Serbia
4 Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Padova, Vicolo dell’Osservatorio, 35122 Padova, Italy
Received: 28 March 2012
Accepted: 10 May 2012
Aims. We analyze the ratios of the broad hydrogen Balmer emission lines (from Hα to Hε) in the context of estimating the physical conditions in the broad line region (BLR) of active galactic nuclei (AGNs).
Methods. Our measurements of the ratios of the Balmer emission lines are obtained in three ways: i) using photoionization models obtained with a spectral synthesis code CLOUDY; ii) applying the recombination theory for hydrogenic ions; iii) measuring the lines in observed spectra taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database. We investigate the Balmer line ratios in the framework of the so-called Boltzmann plot (BP), analyzing the physical conditions of the emitting plasma for which we could use the BP method. The BP considers the ratio of Balmer lines normalized to the atomic data of the corresponding line transition, and in that way differs from the Balmer decrement.
Results. We find that for a certain range of thermodynamic parameters, there are objects that follow the BP. These AGNs may have a BLR consisting of mostly high density plasma.
Key words: galaxies: active / quasars: emission lines / line: formation / plasmas
© ESO, 2012