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Durham University

Department of Physics

Staff profile

Publication details for Prof Chris Done

Collinson, J.S., Ward, M.J., Landt, H., Done, C., Elvis, M. & McDowell, J.C. (2017). Reaching the peak of the quasar spectral energy distribution – II. Exploring the accretion disc, dusty torus and host galaxy. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 465(1): 358-382.

Author(s) from Durham


We continue our study of the spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of 11 active galactic nuclei (AGN) at 1.5 < z < 2.2, with optical–near-infrared (NIR) spectra, X-ray data and mid-IR photometry. In a previous paper, we presented the observations and models; in this paper, we explore the parameter space of these models. We first quantify uncertainties on the black hole (BH) masses (MBH) and degeneracies between SED parameters. The effect of BH spin is tested, and we find that while low-to-moderate spin values (a* ≤ 0.9) are compatible with the data in all cases, maximal spin (a* = 0.998) can only describe the data if the accretion disc is face-on. The outer accretion disc radii are well constrained in 8/11 objects and are found to be a factor ∼5 smaller than the self-gravity radii. We then extend our modelling campaign into the mid-IR regime with Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer photometry, adding components for the host galaxy and dusty torus. Our estimates of the host galaxy luminosities are consistent with the MBH–bulge relationship, and the measured torus properties (covering factor and temperature) are in agreement with earlier work, suggesting a predominantly silicate-based grain composition. Finally, we deconvolve the optical–NIR spectra using our SED continuum model. We claim that this is a more physically motivated approach than using empirical descriptions of the continuum such as broken power laws. For our small sample, we verify previously noted correlations between emission linewidths and luminosities commonly used for single-epoch MBH estimates, and observe a statistically significant anticorrelation between [O III] equivalent width and AGN luminosity.