The 2-79 keV X-ray spectrum of the circinus galaxy with NuSTAR, XMM-newton, and Chandra: A fully compton-thick active galactic nucleus

P. Arévalo, F. E. Bauer, S. Puccetti, D. J. Walton, M. Koss, S. E. Boggs, W. N. Brandt, M. Brightman, F. E. Christensen, A. Comastri, W. W. Craig, F. Fuerst, P. Gandhi, B. W. Grefenstette, C. J. Hailey, F. A. Harrison, B. Luo, G. Madejski, K. K. Madsen, A. MarinucciG. Matt, C. Saez, D. Stern, M. Stuhlinger, E. Treister, C. M. Urry, W. W. Zhang

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The Circinus galaxy is one of the closest obscured active galactic nuclei (AGNs), making it an ideal target for detailed study. Combining archival Chandra and XMM-Newton data with new NuSTAR observations, we model the 2-79 keV spectrum to constrain the primary AGN continuum and to derive physical parameters for the obscuring material. Chandra's high angular resolution allows a separation of nuclear and off-nuclear galactic emission. In the off-nuclear diffuse emission, we find signatures of strong cold reflection, including high equivalent-width neutral Fe lines. This Compton-scattered off-nuclear emission amounts to 18% of the nuclear flux in the Fe line region, but becomes comparable to the nuclear emission above 30 keV. The new analysis no longer supports a prominent transmitted AGN component in the observed band. We find that the nuclear spectrum is consistent with Compton scattering by an optically thick torus, where the intrinsic spectrum is a power law of photon index Γ = 2.2-2.4, the torus has an equatorial column density of N H = (6-10) × 1024 cm-2, and the intrinsic AGN 2-10 keV luminosity is (2.3-5.1) × 1042 erg s-1. These values place Circinus along the same relations as unobscured AGNs in accretion rate versus Γ and LX versus L IR phase space. NuSTAR's high sensitivity and low background allow us to study the short timescale variability of Circinus at X-ray energies above 10 keV for the first time. The lack of detected variability favors a Compton-thick absorber, in line with the spectral fitting results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 20 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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