EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 367, Number 3, March I 2001
Page(s) 801 - 808
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20010022

A&A 367, 801-808 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20010022

The X-ray view of the quasar MR 2251-178 and its host cluster: Variability, absorption, and intracluster gas emission

S. Komossa

Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Postfach 1312, 85741 Garching, Germany

(Received 25 October 2000 / Accepted 13 December 2000 )

MR 2251-178 was the first quasar initially discovered in X-rays, and the first one found to host a warm absorber. The quasar turned out to be an outstanding object in many respects. It has a high ratio of X-ray/optical luminosity, is surrounded by the largest quasar emission-line nebula known, and is located in the outskirts of a cluster of galaxies. Here, we present results from an analysis of the X-ray spectral, temporal, and spatial properties of this source and its environment based on deep ROSAT observations. Remarkably, we do not detect any excess X-ray cold absorption expected to originate from the giant gas nebula surrounding MR 2251-178. This excludes the presence of a huge HI envelope around the quasar. The X-ray spectrum of MR 2251-178 is best fit by a warm-absorbed powerlaw with an ionization parameter $\log U = 0.5$ and a column density $\log N_{\rm w} = 22.6$ which, however, cannot be the same material as the giant optical emission line nebula. The mean (0.1-2.4) keV X-ray luminosity amounts to 1045 erg/s. A spatial analysis shows that the bulk of the X-ray emission from the quasar is consistent with a point source, as expected in view of the powerlaw-shaped X-ray spectrum and the rapid X-ray variability we detect. In addition, extended emission appears at weak emission levels, including a bridge between the quasar and the cD galaxy of the cluster. The X-ray emission from the intra-cluster medium is weak or absent. We derive an upper limit on the X-ray luminosity of $L_{\rm x} \le 1.6 10^{42}$ erg/s, weaker than other clusters of comparable richness. None of the other member galaxies of the cluster to which MR 2251-178 belongs, are detected in X-rays. However, east of the quasar there is a significant excess of X-ray sources, several of them without optical counterparts on the UK Schmidt plates.

Key words: galaxies: active -- individual: MR 2251-178 -- quasars -- clusters -- X-rays: galaxies

Offprint request: St. Komossa, skomossa@mpe.mpg.de

SIMBAD Objects in preparation

© ESO 2001