The long-term X-ray variability of broad absorption line quasars

C. Saez, W. N. Brandt, S. C. Gallagher, F. E. Bauer, G. P. Garmire

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33 Scopus citations


We analyze the long-term (rest-frame 3-30yr) X-ray variability of 11 broad absorption line (BAL) quasars, mainly to constrain the variation properties of the X-ray absorbing shielding gas that is thought to play a critical role in BAL wind launching. Our BAL quasar sample has coverage with multiple X-ray observatories including Chandra, XMM-Newton, BeppoSAX, ASCA, ROSAT, and Einstein; 3-11 observations are available for each source. For seven of the eleven sources we have obtained and analyzed new Chandra observations suitable for searching for any strong X-ray variability. We find highly significant X-ray variability in three sources (PG 1001+054, PG 1004+130, and PG 2112+059). The maximum observed amplitude of the 2-8keV variability is a factor of 3.8 ± 1.3, 1.5 ± 0.2, and 9.9 ± 2.3 for PG 1001+054, PG 1004+130, and PG 2112+059, respectively, and these sources show detectable variability on rest-frame timescales down to 5.8, 1.4, and 0.5yr. For PG 1004+130 and PG 2112+059 we also find significant X-ray spectral variability associated with the flux variability. Considering our sample as a whole, we do not find that BAL quasars exhibit exceptional long-term X-ray variability when compared to the quasar population in general. We do not find evidence for common strong changes in the shielding gas owing to physical rearrangement or accretion-disk rotation, although some changes are found; this has implications for modeling observed ultraviolet BAL variability. Finally, we report for the first time an X-ray detection of the highly polarized and well-studied BAL quasar IRAS 14026+4341 in its new Chandra observation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number42
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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