Volume 473, Number 1, October I 2007
|Page(s)||105 - 120|
|Published online||16 July 2007|
V. Time variability of the brightest AGN
X-ray Astronomy Group, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Leicester University, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK e-mail: email@example.com
2 Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC-UC), 39005 Santander, Spain
3 MSSL, University College London, Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking, Surrey RH5 6NT, UK
4 Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse, Garching 85748, Germany
5 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 OHA, UK
Accepted: 10 July 2007
This paper presents the results of a study of X-ray spectral and flux variability on time scales from months to years, of the 123 brightest objects (including 46 type-1 AGN and 28 type-2 AGN) detected with XMM-Newton in the Lockman Hole field. We detected flux variability with a significance ≥3σ in ~50% of the objects, including 68 ± 11% and 48 ± 15% among our samples of type-1 and type-2 AGN. However we found that the fraction of sources with best quality light curves that exhibit flux variability on the time scales sampled by our data is ≥, i.e the great majority of the AGN population may actually vary in flux on long time scales. The mean relative intrinsic amplitude of flux variability was found to be ~0.15 although with a large dispersion in measured values, from ~0.1 to ~0.65. The flux variability properties of our samples of AGN (fraction of variable objects and amplitude of variability) do not significantly depend on the redshift or X-ray luminosity of the objects and seem to be similar for the two AGN types. Using a broad band X-ray colour we found that the fraction of sources showing spectral variability with a significance ≥3σ is ~40% i.e. less common than flux variability. Spectral variability was found to be more common in type-2 AGN than in type-1 AGN with a significance of more than 99%. This result is consistent with the fact that part of the soft emission in type-2 AGN comes from scattered radiation, and this component is expected to be much less variable than the hard component. The observed flux and spectral variability properties of our objects and especially the lack of correlation between flux and spectral variability in most of them cannot be explained as being produced by variability of one spectral component alone, for example changes in Γ associated with changes in the mass accretion rate, or variability in the amount of X-ray absorption. At least two spectral components must vary in order to explain the X-ray variability of our objects.
Key words: X-rays: general / galaxies: active
© ESO, 2007
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