Yue Shen, W. N. Brandt, Gordon T. Richards, Kelly D. Denney, Jenny E. Greene, C. J. Grier, Luis C. Ho, Bradley M. Peterson, Patrick Petitjean, Donald P. Schneider, Charling Tao, Jonathan R. Trump

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132 Scopus citations


Quasar emission lines are often shifted from the systemic velocity due to various dynamical and radiative processes in the line-emitting region. The level of these velocity shifts depends both on the line species and on quasar properties. We study velocity shifts for the line peaks (not the centroids) of various narrow and broad quasar emission lines relative to systemic using a sample of 849 quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping (SDSS-RM) project. The coadded (from 32 epochs) spectra of individual quasars have sufficient signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) to measure stellar absorption lines to provide reliable systemic velocity estimates, as well as weak narrow emission lines. The large dynamic range in quasar luminosity (∼2 dex) of the sample allowed us to explore potential luminosity dependence of the velocity shifts. We derive average line peak velocity shifts as a function of quasar luminosity for different lines, and quantify their intrinsic scatter. We further quantify how well the peak velocity can be measured as a function of continuum S/N, and demonstrate that there is no systematic bias in the velocity measurements when S/N is degraded to as low as ∼3 per SDSS pixel (). Based on the observed line shifts, we provide empirical guidelines on redshift estimation from [O ii] , [O iii] , [Ne v] , Mg ii, C iii], He ii , broad Hβ, C iv, and Si iv, which are calibrated to provide unbiased systemic redshifts in the mean, but with increasing intrinsic uncertainties of 46, 56, 119, 205, 233, 242, 400, 415, and 477 , in addition to the measurement uncertainties. These results demonstrate the infeasibility of measuring quasar redshifts to better than with only broad lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: active
  • line: profiles
  • quasars: general
  • surveys


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