AGNet: Weighing Black Holes with Machine Learning

30 Nov 2020  ·  Joshua Yao-Yu Lin, Sneh Pandya, Devanshi Pratap, Xin Liu, Matias Carrasco Kind ·

Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are ubiquitously found at the centers of most galaxies. Measuring SMBH mass is important for understanding the origin and evolution of SMBHs. However, traditional methods require spectral data which is expensive to gather. To solve this problem, we present an algorithm that weighs SMBHs using quasar light time series, circumventing the need for expensive spectra. We train, validate, and test neural networks that directly learn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Stripe 82 data for a sample of $9,038$ spectroscopically confirmed quasars to map out the nonlinear encoding between black hole mass and multi-color optical light curves. We find a 1$\sigma$ scatter of 0.35 dex between the predicted mass and the fiducial virial mass based on SDSS single-epoch spectra. Our results have direct implications for efficient applications with future observations from the Vera Rubin Observatory.

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