EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 507, Number 1, November III 2009
Page(s) 159 - 169
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200912188
Published online 08 September 2009
A&A 507, 159-169 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200912188

Probing variability patterns of the Fe K line complex in bright nearby AGNs

B. De Marco1, K. Iwasawa2, M. Cappi3, M. Dadina3, F. Tombesi3, 4, 5, 6, G. Ponti7, A. Celotti1, and G. Miniutti8

1  SISSA International School for Advanced Studies, via Beirut 2-4, 34151 Trieste, Italy
    e-mail: demarco@sissa.it
2  INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
3  INAF – IASF Bologna, via Gobetti 101, 40129 Bologna, Italy
4  Dipartimento di Astronomia, Università degli Studi di Bologna, via Ranzani 1, 40127 Bologna, Italy
5  Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, 3400, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
6  Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
7  APC Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot, 75205 Paris, France
8  LAEX, Centro de Astrobiologia (CSIC–INTA); LAEFF, PO Box 78, 28691 Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain

Received 25 March 2009 / Accepted 2 July 2009

Context. The unprecedented sensitivity of current X-ray telescopes allows the issue of the Fe K line complex variability patterns in bright, nearby AGNs to be addressed for the first time. These kinds of studies have the potential to map the accretion flow in the strong gravity regime of supermassive black holes.
Aims. We examine XMM-Newton observations of the brightest sources of the FERO sample of radio–quiet type 1 AGNs (for a total of 72 observations) with the aim of characterizing the temporal behaviour of Fe K complex features.
Methods. A systematic mapping of residual flux above and below the continuum in the 4–9 keV range was performed in the time vs. energy domain, with the purpose of identifying interesting spectral features in the three energy bands: 5.4–6.1 keV, 6.1–6.8 keV, and 6.8–7.2 keV, respectively corresponding to the redshifted, rest-frame, and either blueshifted or highly ionized Fe K$\alpha$ line bands. The variability significance of rest frame and energy-shifted Fe K lines was assessed by extracting light curves and comparing them with Monte Carlo simulations.
Results. The time-averaged profile of the Fe K complex revealed spectral complexity in several observations. Red- and blue- shifted components (either in emission or absorption) were observed in 30 out of 72 observations, with an average $\langle EW\rangle$ ~ 90 eV for emission and $\langle EW\rangle$ ~ -30 eV for absorption features. We detected significant line variability (with confidence levels ranging between 90% and 99.7%) within at least one of the above energy bands in 26 out of 72 observations on time scales of $\Delta t$ ~ 6–30 ks. The reliability of these features has been carefully calculated using this sample and assessed at ~3$\sigma$ confidence level.
Conclusions. This work increases the currently scanty number of detections of variable, energy-shifted Fe lines and confirms the reliability of the claimed detections. We found that the distribution of detected features is peaked at high variability significances in the red- and blue- shifted energy bands rather than at rest-frame energies, suggesting an origin in a relativistically modified accretion flow.

Key words: line: profiles -- relativity -- galaxies: active -- X-rays: galaxies

© ESO 2009