Heavy X-ray absorption in soft X-ray-weak active galactic nuclei

S. C. Gallagher, W. N. Brandt, A. Laor, M. Elvis, S. Mathur, Beverley J. Wills, N. Iyomoto

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Recent ROSAT studies have identified a significant population of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) that are notably faint in soft X-rays relative to their optical fluxes. Are these AGNs intrinsically X-ray weak or are they highly absorbed? Brandt, Laor, & Wills have systematically examined the optical and UV spectral properties of a well-defined sample of these soft X-ray-weak (SXW) AGNs drawn from the Boroson & Green sample of all the Palomar Green AGNs with z < 0.5. We present ASCA observations of three of these SXW AGNs: PG 1011-040, PG 1535+547 (Mrk 486), and PG 2112+059. In general, our ASCA observations support the intrinsic absorption scenario for explaining soft X-ray weakness; both PG 1535+547 and PG 2112+059 show significant column densities (NH ≈ 1022-1023 cm-2) of absorbing gas. Interestingly, PG 1011-040 shows no spectral evidence for X-ray absorption. The weak X-ray emission may result from very strong absorption of a partially covered source, or this AGN may be intrinsically X-ray weak. PG 2112+059 is a broad absorption line (BAL) QSO, and we find it to have the highest X-ray flux known of this class. It shows a typical power-law X-ray continuum above 3 keV; this is the first direct evidence that BAL QSOs indeed have normal X-ray continua underlying their intrinsic absorption. Finally, marked variability between the ROSAT and ASCA observations of PG 1535+547 and PG 2112+059 suggests that the soft X-ray-weak designation may be transient, and multiepoch 0.1-10.0 keV X-ray observations are required to constrain variability of the absorber and continuum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-804
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Jan 10 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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