A Rapid and Large-amplitude X-Ray Dimming Event in a z ≈ 2.6 Radio-quiet Quasar

Hezhen Liu, B. Luo, W. N. Brandt, Jian Huang, Xingting Pu, Weimin Yi, Li Ming Yu

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We report a dramatic, fast X-ray dimming event in a z = 2.627 radio-quiet type 1 quasar, which has an estimated supermassive black hole (SMBH) mass of 6.3 × 109 M ⊙. In the high X-ray state, it showed a typical level of X-ray emission relative to its UV/optical emission. Then its 0.5-2 keV (rest-frame 1.8-7.3 keV) flux dropped by a factor of ≈7.6 within two rest-frame days. The dimming is associated with spectral hardening, as the 2-7 keV (rest-frame 7.3-25.4 keV) flux dropped by only 17%, and the effective power-law photon index of the X-ray spectrum changed from ≈2.3 to ≈0.9. The quasar has an infrared (IR)-to-UV spectral energy distribution and a rest-frame UV spectrum similar to those of typical quasars, and it does not show any significant long-term variability in the IR and UV/optical bands. Such an extremely fast and large-amplitude X-ray variability event has not been reported before in luminous quasars with such massive SMBHs. The X-ray dimming is best explained by a fast-moving absorber crossing the line of sight and fully covering the X-ray emitting corona. Adopting a conservatively small size of 5 GM BH/c 2 for the X-ray corona, the transverse velocity of the absorber is estimated to be ≈0.9c. The quasar is likely accreting with a high or even super-Eddington accretion rate, and the high-velocity X-ray absorber is probably related to a powerful accretion-disk wind. Such an energetic wind may eventually evolve into a massive galactic-scale outflow, providing efficient feedback to the host galaxy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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