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Long-term variability of AGN at hard X-rays

Abstract : Variability at all observed wavelengths is a distinctive property of AGN. Hard X-rays provide us with a view of the innermost regions of AGN, mostly unbiased by absorption along the line of sight. Swift/BAT offers the unique opportunity to follow, on time scales of days to years and with a regular sampling, the 14-195 keV emission of the largest AGN sample available up to date for this kind of investigation. We study the amplitude of the variations, and their dependence on sub-class and on energy, for a sample of 110 radio quiet and radio loud AGN selected from the BAT 58-month survey. About 80% of the AGN in the sample are found to exhibit significant variability on months to years time scales, radio loud sources being the most variable. The amplitude of the variations and their energy dependence are incompatible with variability being driven at hard X-rays by changes of the absorption column density. In general, the variations in the 14-24 and 35-100 keV bands are well correlated, suggesting a common origin of the variability across the BAT energy band. However, radio quiet AGN display on average 10% larger variations at 14-24 keV than at 35-100 keV and a softer-when-brighter behavior for most of the Seyfert galaxies with detectable spectral variability on month time scale. In addition, sources with harder spectra are found to be more variable than softer ones. These properties are generally consistent with a variable power law continuum, in flux and shape, pivoting at energies >~ 50 keV, to which a constant reflection component is superposed. When the same time scales are considered, the timing properties of AGN at hard X-rays are comparable to those at lower energies, with at least some of the differences possibly ascribable to components contributing differently in the two energy domains (e.g., reflection, absorption).
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Contributor : Volker Beckmann Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, July 3, 2015 - 11:40:04 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 4:32:15 PM

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S. Soldi, Volker Beckmann, Wayne Baumgartner, Gabriele Ponti, Chris R. Shrader, et al.. Long-term variability of AGN at hard X-rays. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2014, 563 (A57), pp.16. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201322653⟩. ⟨hal-01171251⟩



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