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Transient obscuration event captured in NGC 3227: IV. Origin of the obscuring cloud variability

Grafton-Waters, S; Mao, J; Mehdipour, M; Branduardi-Raymont, G; Page, M; Kaastra, J; Wang, Y; ... Ebrero, J; + view all (2023) Transient obscuration event captured in NGC 3227: IV. Origin of the obscuring cloud variability. Astronomy & Astrophysics , 673 , Article A26. 10.1051/0004-6361/202243681. Green open access

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Abstract

CONTEXT: Obscuration events in type I active galactic nuclei (AGN) have been detected more frequently in recent years. The strong flux decrease in the soft X-ray band between observations has been caused by clouds with large column densities transiting our line of sight (LOS) and covering the central AGN. Another event has been captured in NGC 3227 at the end of 2019, which was observed with XMM-Newton, NuSTAR, and the Hubble Space Telescope. AIMS: We aim to determine the nature and origin of the observed spectral variability in the 2019 obscuration event. METHODS: We study the evolution of the obscurer by splitting the two XMM-Newton observations from 2019 into timing bins of length ∼10 ks. We used the SPEX code to analyse the 0.35–10 keV EPIC-PN spectra of each timing bin. RESULTS: In the first observation (Obs 1), there is a strong anti-correlation between the column density (NH) of the obscurer and the continuum normalisations of the X-ray power law and soft Comptonisation components (Npow and Ncomt, respectively). The power-law continuum models the hard X-rays produced by the corona, and the Comptonisation component models the soft X-ray excess and emission from the accretion disk. Through further testing, we conclude that the continuum is likely to drive the observed variability, but we cannot rule out a possible contribution from NH of the obscurer if it fully transverses across the ionising source within our LOS during the observation. The ionisation parameter (ξ) of the obscurer is not easily constrained, and therefore it is not clear whether it varies in response to changes in the ionising continuum. The second observation (Obs 2) displays a significantly lower count rate due to the combination of a high NH and covering fraction of the obscurer, and a lower continuum flux. CONCLUSIONS: The observed variability seen during the obscuration event of NGC 3227 in 2019 is likely driven by the continuum, but the obscurer varies at the same time, making it difficult to distinguish between the two possibilities with full certainty.

Type: Article
Title: Transient obscuration event captured in NGC 3227: IV. Origin of the obscuring cloud variability
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202243681
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202243681
Language: English
Additional information: © The Authors 2023. Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Space and Climate Physics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10169987
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