Extreme X-ray behavior of the low-luminosity active nucleus in NGC 4395

Edward C. Moran, Michael Eracleous, Karen M. Leighly, George Chartas, Alexei V. Filippenko, Luis C. Ho, Philip R. Blanco

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We present the results of a 17 ks Chandra ACIS-S observation of the nearby dwarf spiral galaxy NGC 4395. Chandra affords the first high-quality, broadband X-ray detection of the active nucleus of this object that is uncontaminated by nearby sources in the field. We find the nuclear X-ray source to be unresolved and confirm the rapid, large-amplitude variability reported in previous studies. The light curve appears to show ∼11 cycles of a quasi-periodic oscillation with a period of ∼400 s. If associated with an orbital feature near the innermost stable orbit of the accretion disk, this period would constrain the black hole mass to be M < 9 × 10 5 M . The X-ray spectrum indicates absorption by an ionized medium, and the spectral shape appears to vary over the course of our observation. Contrary to prior reports, however, the spectral variations are uncorrelated with changes in the hard X-ray flux. It is possible that the short-term spectral variability we observe results from column density fluctuations in the ionized absorber. A power-law fit to the spectrum above 1 keV yields a photon index of Γ ≈ 0.6, much flatter than that typically observed in the spectra of Seyfert 1 galaxies. We have ruled out photon pile-up as the cause of the flat spectrum. Even when complex spectral features are considered, the photon index is constrained to be Γ < 1.25 (90% confidence). Comparing our results with previous determinations of the photon index (Γ = 1.46 and 1.72), we conclude that the slope of the primary continuum varies significantly on timescales of 1 yr or less. The extreme flatness and dramatic long-term variability of the X-ray spectrum are unprecedented among active galactic nuclei.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2108-2118
Number of pages11
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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