Optical properties of host galaxies of extragalactic nuclear water masers

Guangtun Zhu, Ingyin Zaw, Michael R. Blanton, Lincoln J. Greenhill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the optical properties of the host galaxies of nuclear 22 GHz (λ = 1.35 cm) water masers. To do so, we cross-match the galaxy sample surveyed for water maser emission (123 detections and 3806 non-detections) with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) low-redshift galaxy sample (z < 0.05). Out of 1636 galaxies with SDSS photometry, we identify 48 detections; out of the 1063 galaxies that also have SDSS spectroscopy, we identify 33 detections. We find that maser detection rate is higher at higher optical luminosity (M B ), larger velocity dispersion (σ), and higher [O III] λ5007 luminosity, with [O III] λ5007 being the dominant factor. These detection rates are essentially the result of the correlations of isotropic maser luminosity with all three of these variables. These correlations are natural if maser strength increases with central black hole mass and the level of active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity. We also find that the detection rate is higher in galaxies with higher extinction. Based on these results, we propose that maser surveys seeking to efficiently find masers should rank AGN targets by extinction-corrected [O III] λ5007 flux when available. This prioritization would improve maser detection efficiency, from an overall 3% without pre-selection to 16% for the strongest intrinsic [O III] λ5007 emitters, by a factor of 5.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • galaxies: Seyfert
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • masers
  • radio lines: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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