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Physics  2012 

Comparing Single-Epoch Virial Black Hole Mass Estimators for Luminous Quasars

DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/753/2/125

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Single-epoch virial black hole (BH) mass estimators utilizing broad emission lines have been routinely applied to high-redshift quasars to estimate their BH masses. Depending on the redshift, different line estimators (Halpha, Hbeta, MgII, CIV) are often used with optical/near-infrared spectroscopy. Here we use a homogeneous sample of 60 intermediate-redshift (z~1.5-2.2) SDSS quasars with optical and near-infrared spectra covering CIV through Halpha to investigate the consistency between different line estimators. We critically compare restframe UV line estimators (CIV, CIII], and MgII) with optical estimators (Hbeta and Halpha) in terms of correlations between line widths and between continuum/line luminosities, for the high-luminosity regime (L_5100>10^45.4 erg/s) probed by our sample. The continuum luminosities of L_1350 and L_3000, and the broad line luminosities are well correlated with L_5100. We found that the MgII FWHM correlates well with the FWHMs of the Balmer lines, and that the MgII line estimator can be calibrated to yield consistent virial mass estimates with those based on the Hbeta/Halpha estimators, thus extending earlier results on less luminous objects. The CIV FWHM is poorly correlated with the Balmer line FWHMs, and the scatter between the CIV and Hbeta FWHMs consists of an irreducible part (~0.12 dex), and a part that correlates with the blueshift of the CIV centroid relative to that of Hbeta. The CIII] FWHM is found to correlate with the CIV FWHM, and hence is also poorly correlated with the Hbeta FWHM. While the CIV and CIII] lines can be calibrated to yield consistent virial mass estimates as Hbeta on average, the scatter is substantially larger than MgII, and the usage of CIV/CIII] FWHM in the mass estimators does not improve the agreement with the Hbeta estimator. (Abridged)


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