X-ray spectral modelling of the AGN obscuring region in the CDFS: Bayesian model selection and catalogue⋆,⋆⋆
Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik
2 Astrophysics Group, Imperial College London, Blackett Laboratory, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2AZ, UK
3 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, USA
4 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kentucky, 505 Rose Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, USA
5 National Observatory of Athensx, V. Paulou & I. Metaxa, 11532, Greece
Accepted: 31 January 2014
Aims. Active galactic nuclei are known to have complex X-ray spectra that depend on both the properties of the accreting super-massive black hole (e.g. mass, accretion rate) and the distribution of obscuring material in its vicinity (i.e. the “torus”). Often however, simple and even unphysical models are adopted to represent the X-ray spectra of AGN, which do not capture the complexity and diversity of the observations. In the case of blank field surveys in particular, this should have an impact on e.g. the determination of the AGN luminosity function, the inferred accretion history of the Universe and also on our understanding of the relation between AGN and their host galaxies.
Methods. We develop a Bayesian framework for model comparison and parameter estimation of X-ray spectra. We take into account uncertainties associated with both the Poisson nature of X-ray data and the determination of source redshift using photometric methods. We also demonstrate how Bayesian model comparison can be used to select among ten different physically motivated X-ray spectral models the one that provides a better representation of the observations. This methodology is applied to X-ray AGN in the 4 Ms Chandra Deep Field South.
Results. For the ~350 AGN in that field, our analysis identifies four components needed to represent the diversity of the observed X-ray spectra: (1) an intrinsic power law; (2) a cold obscurer which reprocesses the radiation due to photo-electric absorption, Compton scattering and Fe-K fluorescence; (3) an unabsorbed power law associated with Thomson scattering off ionised clouds; and (4) Compton reflection, most noticeable from a stronger-than-expected Fe-K line. Simpler models, such as a photo-electrically absorbed power law with a Thomson scattering component, are ruled out with decisive evidence (B > 100). We also find that ignoring the Thomson scattering component results in underestimation of the inferred column density, NH, of the obscurer. Regarding the geometry of the obscurer, there is strong evidence against both a completely closed (e.g. sphere), or entirely open (e.g. blob of material along the line of sight), toroidal geometry in favour of an intermediate case.
Conclusions. Despite the use of low-count spectra, our methodology is able to draw strong inferences on the geometry of the torus. Simpler models are ruled out in favour of a geometrically extended structure with significant Compton scattering. We confirm the presence of a soft component, possibly associated with Thomson scattering off ionised clouds in the opening angle of the torus. The additional Compton reflection required by data over that predicted by toroidal geometry models, may be a sign of a density gradient in the torus or reflection off the accretion disk. Finally, we release a catalogue of AGN in the CDFS with estimated parameters such as the accretion luminosity in the 2−10 keV band and the column density, NH, of the obscurer.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / methods: data analysis / methods: statistical / galaxies: nuclei / X-rays: galaxies / galaxies: high-redshift
Appendices and Figs. 6, 9–11 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
Catalogue and software are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (126.96.36.199) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/564/A125
© ESO, 2014