A new direct method for measuring the Hubble constant from reverberating accretion discs in active galaxies

S Collier, K Horne, I Wanders, B M Peterson

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59 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We show how wavelength-dependent time delays between continuum flux variations of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) can be used to test the standard black hole-accretion disc paradigm, by measuring the temperature structure T(R) of the gaseous material surrounding the purported black hole. Reprocessing of high-energy radiation in a steady-state blackbody accretion disc with T proportional to R-314 incurs a wavelength-dependent light travel time delay tau proportional to lambda(4/3). The International AGN Watch multiwavelength monitoring campaign on NGC 7469 showed optical continuum variations lagging behind those in the UV by about 1 d at 4800 Angstrom and about 2 d at 7500 Angstrom. These UV/optical continuum lags imply a radial temperature structure T proportional to R-3/4 consistent with the classical accretion disc model, and hence strongly support the existence of a disc in this system. We assume that the observed time delays are indeed caused by a classical accretion disc structure, and derive a redshift-independent luminosity distance to NGC 7469. The luminosity distance allows us to estimate a Hubble constant of H-0(cos i/0.7)(1/2) = 42 +/- 9 km s(-1) Mpc(-1). The interpretation of the observed time delays and spectral energy distribution in the context of an accretion disc structure requires further validation. At the same time, efforts to minimize the systematic uncertainties in our method to derive a more accurate measurement of H-0, e.g. by obtaining an independent accurate determination of the disc inclination i or statistical average of a moderate sample of active galaxies, are required. However, this remains a promising new method of determining redshift-independent distances to AGNs.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages5
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume302
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

Keywords

  • accretion, accretion discs
  • galaxies : active
  • galaxies : nuclei
  • cosmology : observations
  • EXTRAGALACTIC DISTANCE SCALE
  • X-RAY REFLECTION
  • GALACTIC NUCLEI
  • ULTRAVIOLET-SPECTRUM
  • ELLIPTICAL GALAXIES
  • COLD MATTER
  • BLACK-HOLE
  • QUASARS
  • EMISSION
  • DISKS

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