The evolution of chemical abundance in quasar broad line region

Fei Xu, Fuyan Bian, Yue Shen, Wenwen Zuo, Xiaohui Fan, Zonghong Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We study the relation between the metallicity of quasar broad line region (BLR) and black hole (BH) mass (107.5-1010M) and quasar bolometric luminosity (1044.6-1048 erg s-1) using a sample of ~130 000 quasars at 2.25 ≤ z ≤ 5.25 from Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 12 (DR12). We generate composite spectra by stacking individual spectra in the same BH mass (bolometric luminosity) and redshift bins and then estimate the metallicity of quasar BLR using metallicity-sensitive broad emission-line flux ratios based on the photoionization models. We find a significant correlation between quasar BLR metallicity and BH mass (bolometric luminosity) but no correlation between quasar BLR metallicity and redshift. We also compare the metallicity of quasar BLR and that of host galaxies inferred from the mass- metallicity relation of star-forming galaxy at z ~ 2.3 and 3.5. We find quasar BLR metallicity is 0.3 ~ 1.0 dex higher than their host galaxies. This discrepancy cannot be interpreted by the uncertainty due to different metallicity diagnostic methods, mass-metallicity relation of galaxy, metallicity gradient in quasar host galaxies, BH mass estimation, the effect of different spectral energy distribution models, and a few other potential sources of uncertainties. We propose a possibility that the high metallicity in quasar BLR might be caused by metal enrichment from massive star formation in the nucleus region of quasars or even the accretion disc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-357
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 11 2018


  • Galaxies: abundances
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: high redshift
  • Quasars: emission lines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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