Probing spectroscopic variability of galaxies and narrow-line active galactic nuclei in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

C. W. Yip, A. J. Connolly, D. E. Vanden Berk, R. Scranton, S. Krughoff, A. S. Szalay, L. Dobos, C. Tremonti, M. Taghizadeh-Popp, T. Budavári, I. Csabai, R. F.G. Wyse, Ž Ivezić

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Under the unified model for active galactic nuclei (AGNs), narrow-line (Type 2) AGNs are, in fact, broad-line (Type 1) AGNs but each with a heavily obscured accretion disk. We would therefore expect the optical continuum emission from Type 2 AGNs to be composed mainly of stellar light and nonvariable on the timescales of months to years. In this work we probe the spectroscopic variability of galaxies and narrow-line AGNs using the multiepoch data in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Data Release 6. The sample contains 18,435 sources for which there exist pairs of spectroscopic observations (with a maximum separation in time of ∼700 days) covering a wavelength range of 3900-8900 Å. To obtain a reliable repeatability measurement between each spectral pair, we consider a number of techniques for spectrophotometric calibration resulting in an improved spectrophotometric calibration of a factor of 2. From these data we find no obvious continuum and emission-line variability in the narrow-line AGNs on average - the spectroscopic variability of the continuum is 0.07 ± 0.26 mag in the g band and, for the emission-line ratios log10([N II]/Hα) and log10([O III]/Hβ), the variability is 0.02 ± 0.03 dex and 0.06 ± 0.08 dex, respectively. From the continuum variability measurement we set an upper limit on the ratio between the flux of the varying spectral component, presumably related to AGN activities, and that of the host galaxy to be ∼30%. We provide the corresponding upper limits for other spectral classes, including those from the BPT diagram, eClass galaxy classification, stars, and quasars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5120-5133
Number of pages14
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2009



  • galaxies: general
  • techniques: spectroscopic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Cite this

Yip, C. W., Connolly, A. J., Vanden Berk, D. E., Scranton, R., Krughoff, S., Szalay, A. S., Dobos, L., Tremonti, C., Taghizadeh-Popp, M., Budavári, T., Csabai, I., Wyse, R. F. G., & Ivezić, Ž. (2009). Probing spectroscopic variability of galaxies and narrow-line active galactic nuclei in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Astronomical Journal, 137(6), 5120-5133.