Exploratory X-Ray monitoring of luminous radio-quiet quasars at high redshift: Initial results

Ohad Shemmer, W. N. Brandt, Maurizio Paolillo, Shai Kaspi, Cristian Vignali, Matthew S. Stein, Paulina Lira, Donald P. Schneider, Robert R. Gibson

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27 Scopus citations


We present initial results from an exploratory X-ray monitoring project of two groups of comparably luminous radio-quiet quasars (RQQs). The first consists of four sources at 4.10 ≤ z ≤ 4.35, monitored by Chandra, and the second is a comparison sample of three sources at 1.33 ≤ z ≤ 2.74, monitored by Swift. Together with archival X-ray data, the total rest-frame temporal baseline spans 2-4 yr and 5-13 yr for the first and second group, respectively. Six of these sources show significant X-ray variability over rest-frame timescales of 102-103 days; three of these also show significant X-ray variability on rest-frame timescales of 1-10 days. The X-ray variability properties of our variable sources are similar to those exhibited by nearby and far less luminous active galactic nuclei (AGNs). While we do not directly detect a trend of increasing X-ray variability with redshift, we do confirm previous reports of luminous AGNs exhibiting X-ray variability above that expected from their luminosities, based on simplistic extrapolation from lower luminosity sources. This result may be attributed to luminous sources at the highest redshifts having relatively high accretion rates. Complementary UV-optical monitoring of our sources shows that variations in their optical-X-ray spectral energy distribution are dominated by the X-ray variations. We confirm previous reports of X-ray spectral variations in one of our sources, HS 1700+6416, but do not detect such variations in any of our other sources in spite of X-ray flux variations of up to a factor of 4. This project is designed to provide a basic assessment of the X-ray variability properties of RQQs at the highest accessible redshifts that will serve as a benchmark for more systematic monitoring of such sources with future X-ray missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 10 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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