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Estimating the size of X-ray lamppost coronae in active galactic nuclei

Ursini, F. and Dovčiak, M. and Zhang, W. and Matt, G. and Petrucci, P.-O. and Done, C. (2020) 'Estimating the size of X-ray lamppost coronae in active galactic nuclei.', Astronomy & astrophysics., 644 . A132.


Aims. We report estimates of the X-ray coronal size of active galactic nuclei in the lamppost geometry. In this commonly adopted scenario, the corona is assumed for simplicity to be a point-like X-ray source located on the axis of the accretion disc. However, the corona must intercept a number of optical/UV seed photons from the disc consistent with the observed X-ray flux, which constrains its size. Methods. We employ a relativistic ray-tracing code, originally developed by Dovčiak and Done, that calculates the size of a Comptonizing lamppost corona illuminated by a standard thin disc. We assume that the disc extends down to the innermost stable circular orbit of a non-spinning or a maximally spinning black hole. We apply this method to a sample of 20 Seyfert 1 galaxies using simultaneous optical/UV and X-ray archival data from XMM-Newton. Results. At least for the sources accreting below the Eddington limit, we find that a Comptonizing lamppost corona can generally exist, but with constraints on its size and height above the event horizon of the black hole depending on the spin. For a maximally spinning black hole, a solution can almost always be found at any height, while for a non-spinning black hole the height must generally be higher than 5 gravitational radii. This is because, for a given luminosity, a higher spin implies more seed photons illuminating the corona, which is due to a larger and hotter inner disc area. The maximal spin solution is favoured, as it predicts an X-ray photon index in better agreement with the observations.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:© ESO 2020
Date accepted:12 October 2020
Date deposited:24 June 2021
Date of first online publication:11 December 2020
Date first made open access:24 June 2021

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