A transition mass for black holes to show broad emission lines

Susmita Chakravorty, Martin Elvis, Gary Ferland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Although the supermassive (AGN) and stellar mass (BHBs) black holes have many properties in common, the broad emission lines (BELs) are exclusively signatures of the active galactic nuclei (AGN). Based on the detection of these lines from Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data bases, there seems to be no AGN with mass MBH < 105M⊙. In this paper, we investigate if such low-mass black holes are really non-existent or they are undetected because the BELs in them are not produced efficiently. Using the ionizing spectral energy distribution for a wide range of black hole mass, 10-109M⊙, spanning black hole X-ray binaries (BHBs) to AGN, we calculate the equivalent widths (EWs) of ultraviolet and optical lines Lyα 1216 Å, Hβ 4861 Å, CIV 1549Å and MgII 2798 Å. The LOC (locally optimally emitting cloud) model has been used to describe the broad emission-line region (BELR) for the calculations. We find that the hardening of the SED shape with decreasing mass do not decrease the BEL EWs. However, finite size of the BELR, as measured by the line widths, which is controlled by the mass of the black hole, regulates the production of these emission lines. There seems to be a peak in the EWs of the emission lines for typical AGN black holes of ~108M⊙, below which the lines become intrinsically fainter with a sharp fall-off below ~106M⊙. This may be the cause of the absence of low-mass AGN in SDSS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)740-747
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Accretion
  • Accretion discs - black hole physics - line: formation - galaxies: active - quasars: emission lines - galaxies: Seyfert.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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