The continuum variability of MCG-6-30-15: A detailed analysis of the long 1999 ASCA observation

D. C. Shih, K. Iwasawa, A. C. Fabian

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We report on an analysis in the 3-10 keV X-ray band of the long 1999 ASCA observation of MCG-6-30-15. The time-averaged broad iron K line is well described by disc emission near a Schwarzschild black hole, confirming the results of earlier analyses on the ASCA 1994 and 1997 data. The time-resolved iron-line profile is remarkably stable over a factor of 3 change in source flux, and the line and continuum fluxes are uncorrelated. Detailed fits to the variable iron-line profile suggest that the active region (parametrized by the best-fitting inner and outer radii of the accretion disc) responsible for iron-line emission actually narrows with increasing flux to a region around 4-5rg. In contrast with the iron line, the power-law continuum exhibits significant variability during the 1999 observation. Time-resolved spectral analysis reveals a new feature in the well-known photon index (Γ) versus flux correlation: Γ appears to approach a limiting value of Γ ∼ 2.1 at high flux. Two models are proposed to explain both the new feature in the Γ versus flux correlation and the uncorrelated iron-line flux: a phenomenological two power-law model, and the recently proposed 'thundercloud' model of Merloni & Fabian. Both models are capable of reproducing the data well, but because they are poorly constrained by the observed Γ versus flux relation, they cannot at present be tested meaningfully by the data. The various implications and the physical interpretation of these models are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-696
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Galaxies: Seyfert
  • Galaxies: individual: MCG-6-30-15
  • X-rays: galaxies

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