AGN STORM 2. VI. Mapping temperature fluctuations in the accretion disk of Mrk 817

Jack M. M. Neustadt*, Christopher S. Kochanek, John Montano, Jonathan Gelbord, Aaron J. Barth, Gisella De Rosa, Gerard A. Kriss, Edward M. Cackett, Keith Horne, Erin A. Kara, Hermine Landt, Hagai Netzer, Nahum Arav, Misty C. Bentz, Elena Dalla Bontà, Maryam Dehghanian, Pu Du, Rick Edelson, Gary J. Ferland, Carina FianTravis Fischer, Michael R. Goad, Diego H. González Buitrago, Varoujan Gorjian, Catherine J. Grier, Patrick B. Hall, Y. Homayouni, Chen Hu, Dragana Ilić, Michael D. Joner, Jelle Kaastra, Shai Kaspi, Kirk T. Korista, Andjelka B. Kovačević, Collin Lewin, Yan-Rong Li, Ian M. McHardy, Missagh Mehdipour, Jake A. Miller, Christos Panagiotou, Ethan Partington, Rachel Plesha, Richard W. Pogge, Luka Č. Popović, Daniel Proga, Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann, David Sanmartim, Matthew R. Siebert, Matilde Signorini, Marianne Vestergaard, Fatima Zaidouni, Ying Zu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We fit the UV/optical lightcurves of the Seyfert 1 galaxy Mrk 817 to produce maps of the accretion disk temperature fluctuations δ T resolved in time and radius. The δT maps are dominated by coherent radial structures that move slowly (v ≪ c) inward and outward, which conflicts with the idea that disk variability is driven only by reverberation. Instead, these slow-moving temperature fluctuations are likely due to variability intrinsic to the disk. We test how modifying the input lightcurves by smoothing and subtracting them changes the resulting δT maps and find that most of the temperature fluctuations exist over relatively long timescales (hundreds of days). We show how detrending active galactic nucleus (AGN) lightcurves can be used to separate the flux variations driven by the slow-moving temperature fluctuations from those driven by reverberation. We also simulate contamination of the continuum emission from the disk by continuum emission from the broad-line region (BLR), which is expected to have spectral features localized in wavelength, such as the Balmer break contaminating the U band. We find that a disk with a smooth temperature profile cannot produce a signal localized in wavelength and that any BLR contamination should appear as residuals in our model lightcurves. Given the observed residuals, we estimate that only ∼20% of the variable flux in the U and u lightcurves can be due to BLR contamination. Finally, we discus how these maps not only describe the data but can make predictions about other aspects of AGN variability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number219
Number of pages18
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Accretion
  • Black hole physics
  • Supermassive black holes
  • Active galactic nuclei


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