The host galaxies and black hole-to-galaxy mass ratios of luminous quasars at z≃ 4

Thomas A. Targett, James S. Dunlop, Ross J. McLure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deep K-band imaging of the most luminous z≃ 4 quasars currently offers the earliest possible view of the mass-dominant stellar populations of the host galaxies which house the first supermassive black holes in the Universe. This is because, until the advent of the James Webb Space Telescope, it is not possible to obtain the necessary deep, sub-arcsec resolution imaging at rest-frame wavelengths λrest > 4000 Å at any higher redshift. We here present and analyse the deepest, high-quality KS-band images ever obtained of luminous quasars at z≃ 4, in an attempt to determine the basic properties of their host galaxies less than 1 Gyr after the first recorded appearance of black holes with Mbh > 109 M&sun;. To maximize the robustness of our results, we have carefully selected two Sloan Digital Sky Survey quasars at z≃ 4. With absolute magnitudes Mi <-28, these quasars are representative of the most luminous quasars known at this epoch, but they also, crucially, lie within 40 arcsec of comparably bright foreground stars (required for accurate point spread function definition), and have redshifts which ensure line-free KS-band imaging. The data were obtained in excellent seeing conditions (= 1.8 kpc) than the host galaxies of luminous low-redshift quasars. We estimate the stellar masses of the z≃ 4 host galaxies to lie in the range 2-10 × 1011 M&sun;, and use the C IV emission line in the Sloan optical spectra to estimate the masses of their central supermassive black holes. The results imply a black hole-to-host-galaxy mass ratio Mbh:Mgal≃ 0.01-0.05. This is an order of magnitude higher than typically seen in the low-redshift Universe, and is consistent with existing evidence for a systematic growth in this mass ratio with increasing redshift [i.e. Mbh:Mgal∝ (1 +z)1.4-2.0], at least for objects selected as powerful active galactic nuclei.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3621-3631
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'The host galaxies and black hole-to-galaxy mass ratios of luminous quasars at z≃ 4'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this