Black hole virial masses from single-epoch photometry: The miniJPAS test case

J. Chaves-Montero, S. Bonoli, B. Trakhtenbrot, A. Fernández-Centeno, C. Queiroz, L. A. Díaz-García, R. M. González Delgado, A. Hernán-Caballero, C. Hernández-Monteagudo, C. Lópen-Sanjuan, R. Overzier, D. Sobral, L. R. Abramo, J. Alcaniz, N. Benitez, S. Carneiro, A. J. Cenarro, D. Cristóbal-Hornillos, R. A. Dupke, A. EderocliteA. Marín-Franch, C. Mendes De Oliveira, M. Moles, L. Sodré, K. Taylor, J. Varela, H. Vázquez Ramió, T. Civera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. Precise measurements of black hole masses are essential to understanding the coevolution of these sources and their host galaxies. Aims. We develop a novel approach for computing black hole virial masses using measurements of continuum luminosities and emission line widths from partially overlapping, narrow-band observations of quasars; we refer to this technique as single-epoch photometry. Methods. This novel method relies on forward-modelling quasar observations for estimating emission line widths, which enables unbiased measurements even for lines coarsely resolved by narrow-band data. We assess the performance of this technique using quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) observed by the miniJPAS survey, a proof-of-concept project of the Javalambre Physics of the Accelerating Universe Astrophysical Survey (J-PAS) collaboration covering ≃ 1 deg2 of the northern sky using the 56 J-PAS narrow-band filters. Results. We find remarkable agreement between black hole masses from single-epoch SDSS spectra and single-epoch miniJPAS photometry, with no systematic difference between these and a scatter ranging from 0.4 to 0.07 dex for masses from log(MBH)≃ 8 to 9.75, respectively. Reverberation mapping studies show that single-epoch masses present approximately 0.4 dex precision, letting us conclude that our novel technique delivers black hole masses with only mildly lower precision than single-epoch spectroscopy. Conclusions. The J-PAS survey will soon start observing thousands of square degrees without any source preselection other than the photometric depth in the detection band, and thus single-epoch photometry has the potential to provide details on the physical properties of quasar populations that do not satisfy the preselection criteria of previous spectroscopic surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA95
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Line: profiles
  • Quasars: emission lines

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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