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publication

Evidence for X-ray flux and spectral modulation by absorption in NGC 6814. 1: The nature of the most rapid variability

K. Leighly, H. Kunieda, Y. Tsusaka, H. Awaki and S. Tsuruta

Abstract

The Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 6814 was observed using the Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite Ginga in 1990 April and October. The rapid variability characteristically associated with this source was reconfirmed. Specifically, three dips were found in the April observation in which the flux dropped to nearly zero in approximately 300 s. The doubling timescale was approximately 50 s. A similar but separated drop and rise in flux was observed in the October data, different in that the flux did not decrease completely to zero. A detailed analysis of the data around the structures of most rapid variability found spectral variability and lags in flux between different energy bands. Lags were on the order of a few to tens of seconds for the April data, and on the order of tens to a couple of hundred seconds for the October data. The sense of the lags was such that during flux decreases the hard flux lagged, while during flux increases the soft flux lagged. Associated significant apparent hardening of the spectrum at low flux was observed in the April data. Apparent hardening of the spectrum also occurred in the October flux decrease, to a photon index of GAMMA = 0.85; however, the spectrum softened at lowest flux to the index of the predecrease level, GAMMA = 1.54. In the April dips, the line flux was found to decrease significantly. A marginal decrease in line flux was also observed in the October data. The variability of the line flux reconfirmed the result of Kunieda et al. (1990), who found that the line production region must be within approximately 300 light-seconds from the source. To explain the observational results, a variable-absorption model was proposed, in which the column density was assumed to vary as a function of time. Other physical processes, including intrinsic spectral changes and warm absorber models, which could account for the fastest variability, could be ruled out by the results of the data analysis. A primary constraint found for geometrical models is that the material which is doing the absorption must have relatively low ionization (xi less than 100). This result leads to severe constraints on a general orbiting cloud model, requiring high densities (n approximately 1016/cu cm) and sheetlike geometry.

 
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