ROSAT high-resolution imager monitoring of extreme X-ray variability in the narrow-line quasar PHL 1092

W. N. Brandt, Th Boiler, A. C. Fabian, M. Ruszkowski

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We report results from an 18-d ROSAT High-Resolution Imager (HRI) monitoring campaign on the ultrasoft narrow-line Seyfert 1 (NLS1) class quasar PHL 1092. This luminous, radioquiet quasar showed strong X-ray variability in a short ROSAT Position-Sensitive Proportional Counter observation, and ROSAT HRI monitoring of the similar object IRAS 13224-3809 revealed extreme variability on intermediate time-scales. We wanted to determine whether remarkable X-ray variability persistently occurs in PHL 1092, and we also wanted to search for outstanding variability events that constrain emission processes. Given the large luminosity of PHL 1092 (∼5 × 1045 erg s-1 in the HRI band), we detect extremely rapid and large-amplitude X-ray variability throughout our monitoring. The maximum observed variability amplitude is a factor of ≈14, and in the most rapid variability event the HRI count rate increases by a factor of ≈3.8 in a rest-frame time interval of < 3580 s. The most rapid event has a rate change of luminosity of > 1.3 × 1042 erg s-2, making it the most extreme such event we are aware of from a radio-quiet quasar. Standard 'radiative efficiency limit' arguments imply a radiative efficiency larger than can be achieved by accretion on to a Kerr black hole rotating at the maximum plausible rate, although we point out that such arguments depend upon the geometry of initial radiation release. Relativistic motions of the X-ray source are probably causing the radiative efficiency limit to break down; such relativistic motions have also been inferred in the similar NLS1-class quasar PKS 0558-504.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L53-L57
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 11 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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