The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping Project: investigation of continuum lag dependence on broad-line contamination and quasar properties

Hugh W. Sharp*, Y. Homayouni, Jonathan R. Trump, Scott F. Anderson, Roberto J. Assef, W. N. Brandt, Megan C. Davis, Logan B. Fries, Catherine J. Grier, Patrick B. Hall, Keith Horne, Anton M. Koekemoer, Mary Loli Martínez-Aldama, David M. Menezes, Theodore Pena, C. Ricci, Donald P. Schneider, Yue Shen, Benny Trakhtenbrot

*Corresponding author for this work

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This work studies the relationship between accretion-disk size and quasar properties, using a sample of 95 quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping Project with measured lags between the g and i photometric bands. Our sample includes disk lags that are both longer and shorter than predicted by the Shakura and Sunyaev model, requiring explanations that satisfy both cases. Although our quasars each have one lag measurement, we explore the wavelength-dependent effects of diffuse broad-line region (BLR) contamination through our sample’s broad redshift range, 0.1 < z < 1.2. We do not find significant evidence of variable diffuse Fe ii and Balmer nebular emission in the rms spectra, nor from Anderson–Darling tests of quasars in redshift ranges with and without diffuse nebular emission falling in the observed-frame filters. Contrary to previous work, we do not detect a significant correlation between the measured continuum and BLR lags in our luminous quasar sample, similarly suggesting that our continuum lags are not dominated by diffuse nebular emission. Similar to other studies, we find that quasars with larger-than-expected continuum lags have lower 3000 Å luminosities, and we additionally find longer continuum lags with lower X-ray luminosities and black hole masses. Our lack of evidence for diffuse BLR contribution to the lags indicates that the anticorrelation between continuum lag and luminosity is not likely to be due to the Baldwin effect. Instead, these anticorrelations favor models in which the continuum lag increases in lower-luminosity active galactic nuclei, including scenarios featuring magnetic coupling between the accretion disk and X-ray corona, and/or ripples or rims in the disk.
Original languageEnglish
Article number93
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2024


  • Quasars
  • Supermassive black holes
  • Active galactic nuclei


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