The ultraviolet emission properties of five low-redshift active galactic nuclei at high signal-to-noise ratio and spectral resolution

Ari Laor, John N. Bahcall, Buell T. Jannuzi, Donald P. Schneider, Richard F. Green, George F. Hartig

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We analyze the ultraviolet (UV) emission line and continuum properties of five low-redshift active galactic nuclei (four luminous quasars: PKS 0405-123, H1821+643, PG 0953+414, and 3C 273, and one bright Seyfert 1 galaxy: Mrk 205). The HST spectra have higher signal-to-noise ratios (typically ∼60 per resolution element) and spectral resolution (R = 1300) than all previously published UV spectra used to study the emission characteristics of active galactic nuclei. We include in the analysis ground-based optical spectra covering Hβ and the narrow [O III] λλ4959, 5007 doublet. The following new results are obtained: Lyβ/Lyα = 0.03-0.12 for the four quasars, which is the first accurate measurement of the long-predicted Lyβ intensity in QSOs. The cores of Lyα and C IV are symmetric to an accuracy of better than 2.5% within about 2000 km s-1 of the line peak. This high degree of symmetry of Lyα argues against models in which the broad line cloud velocity field has a significant radial component. The observed smoothness of the Lyα and C IV line profiles requires at least ∼ 104 individual clouds if bulk velocity is the only line-broadening mechanism. The overall similarity of the Lyα and C IV λ1549 profiles rules out models for the broad-line region (BLR) with a radial distribution of virialized clouds having an ionization parameter U ∝ Radius-1. The measured high values of O VI λ1034/Lyα and low values of C III λ977/O VI γ1034 imply a BLR component with U ∼ 1. The excess red-wing flux in O VI relative to Lyα suggests the presence of an inner, high-velocity, optically thin component with U > 1 in the BLR. The N v/Lyα ratio is 0.135 ± 0.01 for the four quasars, which may be an indication of higher than solar N abundance and metallicity. The maximum contribution of a narrow ([O III]-like) component is about 3%-6% of the total broad-line flux; this limit is generally highest for C III]. This result constrains the covering factor of the narrow line region or indicates the presence of dust. An unresolved component having full width at half-maximum less than 230 km s-1 typically contributes less than 0.5% of the observed broad lines flux. The HST data permit the first relatively accurate measurements of the Lyγ, C III λ977, S VI λλ933, 945, and the N III λ991 emission lines, as well as the measurement of a number of other weak or strongly blended lines at λ > 1216 Å. In agreement with observations of high-redshift quasars, the peaks of Lyα, C IV, and C III] are blueshifted by ∼ 200 km s-1 relative to [O III] λ5007, while He II λ1640 is shifted by about 500 km s-1. The low ionization lines, Mg II, Hβ, and O I λ1304, are in most cases only marginally shifted to the red.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-135
Number of pages26
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Line: profiles
  • Quasars: emission lines
  • Ultraviolet: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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