The lick AGN monitoring project: The MBH- σ* relation for reverberation-mapped active galaxies

Jong Hak Woo, Tommaso Treu, Aaron J. Barth, Shelley A. Wright, Jonelle L. Walsh, Misty C. Bentz, Paul Martini, Vardha N. Bennert, Gabriela Canalizo, Alexei V. Filippenko, Elinor Gates, Jenny Greene, Weidong Li, Matthew A. Malkan, Daniel Stern, Takeo Minezaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


To investigate the black hole mass versus stellar velocity dispersion (MBH*) relation of active galaxies, we measured the velocity dispersions of a sample of local Seyfert 1 galaxies, for which we have recently determined black hole masses using reverberation mapping. For most objects, stellar velocity dispersions were measured from high signal-to-noise ratio optical spectra centered on the Ca II triplet region (∼ 8500 Å), obtained at the Keck, Palomar, and Lick Observatories. For two objects, in which the Ca II triplet region was contaminated by nuclear emission, the measurement was based on high-quality H-band spectra obtained with the OH-Suppressing Infrared Imaging Spectrograph at the Keck-II telescope. Combining our new measurements with data from the literature, we assemble a sample of 24 active galaxies with stellar velocity dispersions and reverberation-based black hole mass measurements in the range of black hole mass 106 < MBH/M < 109. We use this sample to obtain reverberation-mapping constraints on the slope and intrinsic scatter of the MBH* relation of active galaxies. Assuming a constant virial coefficient f for the reverberation-mapping black hole masses, we find a slope β = 3.55 ± 0.60 and the intrinsic scatter σint = 0.43 ± 0.08 dex in the relation log(MBH/M) = α + β log(σ*/200kms-1), which are consistent with those found for quiescent galaxies. We derive an updated value of the virial coefficient f by finding the value which places the reverberation masses in best agreement with the MBH* relation of quiescent galaxies; using the quiescent MBH* relation determined by Gültekin etal., we find log f = 0.72 +0.09 -0.10 with an intrinsic scatter of 0.44 ± 0.07 dex. No strong correlations between f and parameters connected to the physics of accretion (such as the Eddington ratio or line-shape measurements) are found. The uncertainty of the virial coefficient remains one of the main sources of the uncertainty in black hole mass determinations using reverberation mapping, and therefore also in single-epoch spectroscopic estimates of black hole masses in active galaxies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: kinematics and dynamics
  • Galaxies: nuclei


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