Journal Article

Biases in the quasar mass–luminosity plane

Alireza Rafiee and Patrick B. Hall

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 415, issue 3, pages 2932-2941
Published in print August 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Biases in the quasar mass–luminosity plane

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We find that the recently reported departure from the Eddington luminosity limit for the highest quasar black hole masses at a given redshift is an artefact due to biases in black hole mass measurements. This sub-Eddington boundary (with non-unity slope) in the quasar mass–luminosity plane was initially reported by Steinhardt & Elvis using the full width at half-maximum (FWHM) based black hole mass catalogue of Shen et al. However, the significance of the boundary is reduced when the FWHM-based mass scaling relationship is recalibrated following Wang et al. and using the most updated reverberation mapping estimates of black hole masses. Furthermore, this boundary is not seen using mass estimates based on the line dispersion of the same quasars’ Mg ii emission lines. Thus, the initial report of a sub-Eddington boundary with non-unity slope was due to biases in estimating masses using the FWHM of a fit of one or two Gaussians to quasar Mg ii emission lines. We provide evidence that using the line dispersion of the Mg ii line produces less biased black hole mass estimates.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; black hole physics; galaxies: evolution; galaxies: nuclei; quasars: general

Journal Article.  4921 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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