I'm currently working on an independent project that involves discerning starburst galaxies that are themselves within active galaxies.

I would assume radio observations would be best to discern star formation rates, and X-ray to understand the AGN in greater detail. However, assuming we have only optical data could I use the relative strength of the OII flux to the OIII flux to better understand the star formation rate of an active galaxy? Spectroscopic surveys of distant galaxies, particularly for redshifts between $z$ ≈ $0.4$ to $1$, routinely use [O II] $λ3727$, a prominent nebular emission line in H II regions, to estimate SFRs. If (high-ionisation) AGNs experience substantial levels of ongoing star formation, the integrated contribution from H II regions will boost the strength of the [O II] line (compared to, say, [O III] $λ5007$, which can be largely ascribed to the AGN itself).

  • $\begingroup$ Of course, one of the reasons high-redshift surveys use [O II] 3727 is because H$\alpha$ -- usually stronger and also less extincted -- has been redshifted into the near-IR. If your galaxies are at a low enough redshift, you're probably better off using H$\alpha$. $\endgroup$ Apr 16, 2021 at 20:59

1 Answer 1


For starbursts, their star formation rates are best estimated by a combination of their ultraviolet and infrared emission. [O II] and [O III] as well as Hydrogen recombination lines can be used to estimate star formation, but like the UV, these suffer from extinction.

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