Journal Article

A self-consistent hybrid Comptonization model for broad-band spectra of accreting supermassive black holes

Alexandra Veledina, Indrek Vurm and Juri Poutanen

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 414, issue 4, pages 3330-3343
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
A self-consistent hybrid Comptonization model for broad-band spectra of accreting supermassive black holes

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The nature of the broad-band spectra of supermassive accreting black holes in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) is still unknown. The hard X-ray spectra of Seyferts as well as of Galactic stellar-mass black holes (GBHs) are well represented by thermal Comptonization, but the origin of the seed photons is less certain. The MeV tails observed in GBHs provide evidence in favour of non-thermal electron tails and it is possible that such electrons are also present in the X-ray-emitting regions of AGNs.

Using simulations with the kinetic code that self-consistently models electron and photon distributions, we find that the power-law-like X-ray spectra in AGNs can be explained in terms of the synchrotron self-Compton radiation of hybrid thermal/non-thermal electrons, similarly to the hard/low state of GBHs. Under a very broad range of parameters, the model predicts a rather narrow distribution of photon spectral slopes consistent with that observed from low-ionization nuclear emission-line regions and Seyferts at luminosities less than 3 per cent of the Eddington luminosity. The entire infrared to X-ray spectrum of these objects can be described in terms of our model, suggesting a tight correlation between the two energy bands. We show that the recently found correlation between the slope and the Eddington ratio at higher luminosities can be described by the increasing fraction of disc photons in the emitting region, which may be associated with the decreasing inner radius of the optically thick accretion disc. The increasing flux of soft photons is also responsible for the transformation of the electron distribution from nearly thermal to almost completely non-thermal. The softer X-ray spectra observed in narrow-line Seyfert galaxies may correspond to non-thermal Comptonization of the disc photons, predicting that no cut-off should be observed up to MeV energies in these sources, similarly to the soft-state GBHs.

Keywords: accretion, accretion discs; radiation mechanisms: non-thermal; galaxies: Seyfert; X-rays: galaxies

Journal Article.  9652 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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