Photoionized H beta emission in NGC 5548: it breathes!

E M Cackett, K Horne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Emission-line regions in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and other photoionized nebulae should become larger in size when the ionizing luminosity increases. This 'breathing' effect is observed for the H beta emission in NGC 5548 by using H beta and optical continuum light curves from the 13-yr (1989-2001) AGN Watch monitoring campaign. To model the breathing, we use two methods to fit the observed light curves in detail: (i) parametrized models and, (ii) the memecho reverberation-mapping code. Our models assume that optical continuum variations track the ionizing radiation, and that the H beta variations respond with time-delays tau due to light travel-time. By fitting the data using a delay-map Psi(tau, F-c) that is allowed to change with continuum flux F-c, we find that the strength of the H beta response decreases and the time-delay increases with ionizing luminosity. The parametrized breathing models allow the time-delay and the H beta flux to depend on the continuum flux so that, tau proportional to F-c(beta) and F(H beta)proportional to F-c(alpha). Our fits give 0.1 < beta < 0.46 and 0.57 < alpha < 0.66. alpha is consistent with previous work by Gilbert and Peterson, and Goad, Korista and Knigge. Although we find beta to be flatter than previously determined by Peterson et al. using cross-correlation methods, it is closer to the predicted values from recent theoretical work by Korista and Goad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1190
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume365
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2006

Keywords

  • galaxies : active
  • galaxies : individual : NGC 5548
  • galaxies : nuclei
  • galaxies : Seyfert
  • ACTIVE GALACTIC NUCLEI
  • BROAD-LINE REGION
  • IONIZING CONTINUUM VARIATIONS
  • SEYFERT-GALAXIES
  • LONG-TERM
  • NGC 5548
  • VARIABILITY
  • STEPS
  • SIZE
  • QUASARS

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