Ultraviolet diagnostics for the emission-line gas in active galaxies

Mark G. Allen, Michael A. Dopita, Zlatan I. Tsvetanov

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84 Citations (Scopus)


Optical diagnostic diagrams are frequently ambiguous as tests of the photoionization or fast-shock models of the narrow-line regions of active galaxies. Here, we present a set of UV line ratio diagrams that can discriminate between pure shock and photoionization modes of excitation and can, to some extent, also discriminate shocks with ionized precursors from photoionization. These diagrams use relatively bright emission lines and reddening-insensitive ratios and provide a practical observational test for separating the excitation mechanisms of the narrow-line regions of active galaxies. The most useful diagrams are those involving the various ionization stages of carbon, ([O III] λ5007/Hβ) versus (C IV λ1549/ He II λ1640) and the purely UV ratio pair (C II] λ2326/C in] λ1909) versus (C IV λ1549/C III] λ1909). Temperature-sensitive FUV lines, C in λ977 and N III λ991, also provide good discriminants. The models are compared to observations of nearby AGNs and also to high-redshift objects where the UV lines are shifted into the optical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-582
Number of pages12
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART I
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998



  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxies: photometry
  • Ultraviolet: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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