Stability of cloud orbits in the broad-line region of active galactic nuclei

M. Krause, A. Burkert, M. Schartmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


We investigate the global dynamic stability of spherical clouds in the broad-line region (BLR)
of active galactic nuclei (AGN), exposed to radial radiation pressure, gravity of the central
black hole (BH) and centrifugal forces assuming the clouds adapt their size according to the
local pressure. We consider both isotropic and anisotropic light sources. In both cases, stable
orbits exist also for very sub-Keplerian rotation for which the radiation pressure contributes
substantially to the force budget. We demonstrate that highly eccentric, very sub-Keplerian
stable orbits may be found. This gives further support for the model of Marconi et al., who
pointed out that BH masses might be significantly underestimated if radiation pressure is
neglected. That model improved the agreement between BH masses derived in certain active
galaxies based on BLR dynamics, and BH masses derived by other means in other galaxies by
inclusion of a luminosity-dependent term. For anisotropic illumination, energy is conserved for
averages over long time intervals only, but not for individual orbits. This leads to Rosetta orbits
that are systematically less extended in the direction of maximum radiation force. Initially
isotropic relatively low column density systems would therefore turn into a disc when an
anisotropic AGN is switched on.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-556
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Early online date21 Jan 2011
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2011


  • methods: analytical, galaxies: active, galaxies: nuclei


Dive into the research topics of 'Stability of cloud orbits in the broad-line region of active galactic nuclei'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this