Journal Article

Synthetic X-ray spectra for simulations of the dynamics of an accretion flow irradiated by a quasar

S. A. Sim, D. Proga, R. Kurosawa, K. S. Long, L. Miller and T. J. Turner

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 426, issue 4, pages 2859-2869
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online November 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Synthetic X-ray spectra for simulations of the dynamics of an accretion flow irradiated by a quasar

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Ultraviolet and X-ray observations show evidence of outflowing gas around many active galactic nuclei. It has been proposed that some of these outflows are driven off gas infalling towards the central supermassive black hole. We perform radiative transfer calculations to compute the gas ionization state and the emergent X-ray spectra for both two- and three-dimensional (3D) hydrodynamical simulations of this outflow-from-inflow scenario. By comparison with observations, our results can be used to test the theoretical models and guide future numerical simulations. We predict both absorption and emission features, most of which are formed in a polar funnel of relatively dense (10−20–10−18 g cm−3) outflowing gas. This outflow causes strong absorption for observer orientation angles of ≲35°. Particularly in 3D, the strength of this absorption varies significantly for different lines of sight owing to the fragmentary structure of the gas flow. Although infalling material occupies a large fraction of the simulation volume, we do not find that it imprints strong absorption features in the X-ray spectra since the ionization state is predicted to be very high. Thus, an absence of observed inflow absorption features does not exclude the models. The main spectroscopic consequence of the infalling gas is a Compton-scattered continuum component that partially re-fills the absorption features caused by the outflowing polar funnel. Fluorescence and scattering in the outflow are predicted to give rise to several emission features including a multicomponent Fe Kα emission complex for all observer orientations. For the hydrodynamical simulations considered, we predict both ionization states and column densities for the outflowing gas that are too high to be quantitatively consistent with well-observed X-ray absorption systems. Nevertheless, our results are qualitatively encouraging and further exploration of the model parameter space is warranted. Higher resolution hydrodynamic simulations are needed to determine whether the outflows fragment on scales unresolved in our current study, which may yield the denser lower ionization material that could reconcile the models and the observations.

Keywords: hydrodynamics; radiative transfer; methods: numerical; galaxies: active; X-rays: galaxies

Journal Article.  6971 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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