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Astron. Astrophys. 329, 863-872 (1998)

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Principal component analysis of two ultraviolet emission-lines
in 18 active galactic nuclei

M. Türler 1, 2 and T.J.-L. Courvoisier 1, 2

1 Geneva Observatory, ch. des Maillettes 51, CH-1290 Sauverny, Switzerland
2 INTEGRAL Science Data Centre, ch. d'Écogia 16, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland

Received 2 September 1996 / Accepted 27 August 1997


We apply a principal component analysis (PCA) to the spectra of each of the 18 Seyfert 1-like objects observed more than 15 times by the international ultraviolet explorer (IUE) from 1978 until the end of 1991. PCA allows us to decompose the Ly [FORMULA] and C IV [FORMULA] 1549 emission-lines of each object into two components with uncorrelated variations. We find that the principal component describes correlated continuum and line variations, whereas the rest component reveals the line-parts that do not vary in tune with the continuum. A cross-correlation analysis in NGC 5548 reveals that variable line features in the rest component follow the continuum by about 25 days. The symmetry usually observed in the component's line profiles excludes that the velocity field of the line-emitting region is dominated by radial motion. In some objects, the principal component reveals a clearly double-peaked line profile.

The results suggest that the variable line feature in the principal and the rest component is respectively emitted in the inner and outer parts of an extended broad-line region (BLR). The fraction of the line that varies together with the continuum seems to decrease significantly with increasing luminosity. We interpret this trend as a consequence of a larger BLR in more luminous objects. Finally, we propose a solution to the C IV /Ly [FORMULA] ratio problem without referring to optically thin emission-line clouds.

Key words: line: profiles – galaxies: active – quasars: emission lines – galaxies: Seyfert – ultraviolet: galaxies

Send offprint requests to: M. Türler

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1998

Online publication: December 16, 1997