Journal Article

Correlated X-ray/optical variability in the quasar MR 2251−178

P. Arévalo, P. Uttley, S. Kaspi, E. Breedt, P. Lira and I. M. McHardy

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 389, issue 3, pages 1479-1488
Published in print September 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13719.x
Correlated X-ray/optical variability in the quasar MR 2251−178

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Emission from active galactic nuclei is known to vary strongly over time over a wide energy band, but the origin of the variability and especially of the interband correlations is still not well established. Here we present the results of our X-ray and optical monitoring campaign of the quasar MR 2251−178, covering a period of 2.5 years. The X-ray 2–10 keV flux is remarkably well correlated with the optical B, V and R bands, their fluctuations are almost simultaneous with a delay consistent with 0 d and not larger than 4 d in either direction. The amplitude of variations shows an intriguing behaviour: rapid, large amplitude fluctuations over tens of days in the X-rays have only small counterparts in the optical bands, while the long-term trends over hundreds of days are stronger in the B band than in X-rays. We show that simple reprocessing models, where all the optical variability arises from the variable X-ray heating, cannot simultaneously explain the discrepant variability amplitudes on different time-scales and the short delays between X-ray and optical bands. We interpret the variability and correlations, in the optically thick accretion disc plus corona scenario, as the result of intrinsic accretion rate variations modulating both X-ray and optical emission, together with reprocessing of X-rays by the accretion disc.

Keywords: galaxies: active

Journal Article.  8226 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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