AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 21. Supermassive Blackhole Research and Advances with STIS
Topical Session Oral, Tuesday, June 6, 2000, 8:30-10:00am, 10:45am-12:30pm, 2:00-3:30pm, 3:45-5:30pm, Lilac Ballroom

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[21.18] AGN Black Hole Masses from Reverberation Mapping

B.M. Peterson (Ohio State)

Emission-line variability data on bright AGNs indicates that the central objects in these sources have masses in the million to few-hundred million solar mass range. The time-delayed response of the emission lines to continuum variations can be used to infer the size of the line-emitting region via light travel-time arguments. By combining these sizes with the Doppler widths of the variable part of the emission lines, a virial mass estimate can be obtained. For three especially well-studied sources, NGC 5548, NGC 7469, and 3C 390.3, data on multiple emission lines can be used to test the virial hypothesis. In each of these cases, the response time of the various emission lines is anticorrelated with the line width, with the dependence as expected for gravitationally bound motion of the line-emitting clouds, i.e., that the square of the Doppler line width is inversely proportional to the emission-line time delay. Virial masses based on the Balmer lines have now been measured for about three dozen AGNs. Systematic effects currently limit the accuracy of these masses to a factor of several, but characteristics of the radius-luminosity and mass-luminosity relationships for AGNs are beginning to emerge.

This research has been supported by NASA and NSF.

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