Volume 607, November 2017
|Number of page(s)||17|
|Published online||03 November 2017|
Constraining the geometry and kinematics of the quasar broad emission line region using gravitational microlensing
I. Models and simulations
1 Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, Allée du 6 Août 19c, B5c, 4000 Liège, Belgium
2 Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg, Université de Strasbourg, 11 rue de l’Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
Received: 2 May 2017
Accepted: 20 July 2017
Recent studies have shown that line profile distortions are commonly observed in gravitationally lensed quasar spectra. Often attributed to microlensing differential magnification, line profile distortions can provide information on the geometry and kinematics of the broad emission line region (BLR) in quasars. We investigate the effect of gravitational microlensing on quasar broad emission line profiles and their underlying continuum, combining the emission from simple representative BLR models with generic microlensing magnification maps. Specifically, we considered Keplerian disk, polar, and equatorial wind BLR models of various sizes. The effect of microlensing has been quantified with four observables: μBLR, the total magnification of the broad emission line; μcont, the magnification of the underlying continuum; as well as red/blue, RBI and wings/core, WCI, indices that characterize the line profile distortions. The simulations showed that distortions of line profiles, such as those recently observed in lensed quasars, can indeed be reproduced and attributed to the differential effect of microlensing on spatially separated regions of the BLR. While the magnification of the emission line μBLR sets an upper limit on the BLR size and, similarly, the magnification of the continuum μcont sets an upper limit on the size of the continuum source, the line profile distortions mainly depend on the BLR geometry and kinematics. We thus built (WCI,RBI) diagrams that can serve as diagnostic diagrams to discriminate between the various BLR models on the basis of quantitative measurements. It appears that a strong microlensing effect puts important constraints on the size of the BLR and on its distance to the high-magnification caustic. In that case, BLR models with different geometries and kinematics are more prone to produce distinctive line profile distortions for a limited number of caustic configurations, which facilitates their discrimination. When the microlensing effect is weak, there is a larger overlap between the characteristics of the line profile distortions produced by the different models, and constraints can only be derived on a statistical basis.
Key words: quasars: general / quasars: emission lines / gravitational lensing: micro
© ESO, 2017
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