We present an analysis of the effects of luminosity on the shape of the mid-infrared spectral energy distributions (SEDs) of 234 radio-quiet quasars originally presented by Richards et al. In quasars without evident dust extinction, the spectrally integrated optical and infrared luminosities are linearly correlated over nearly three decades in luminosity. We find a significant (≳99.99\% confidence) correlation between the 1.8-8.0 μm spectral index and infrared luminosity that indicates an enhancement of the mid-infrared continuum with increasing luminosity. Coupled with strong evidence for spectral curvature in more luminous quasars, we conclude that this trend is likely a manifestation of the “near-infrared (3-5 μm) bump” noted in earlier quasar SED surveys. The strength of this feature is indicative of the contribution of emission from the hottest (≳1000 K) dust to the mid-infrared spectrum; higher luminosity quasars tend to show more hot dust emission. Finally, the comparable distribution of bolometric corrections from the monochromatic 3 μm luminosity as well as its lack of sensitivity to dust extinction as compared to the standard bolometric correction from νL5100Å suggest that the former may be a more robust indicator of bolometric quasar luminosity. The close link between the power in the mid-infrared and optical and the effect of luminosity on the shape of the mid-infrared continuum indicate that considering mid-infrared emission independent of the properties of the quasar itself is inadequate for understanding the parsec-scale quasar environment.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 661, no. 1, p. 30-37.

© 2007. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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