The optical variability of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy IRAS 13224-3809

A. J. Young, C. S. Crawford, A. C. Fabian, W. N. Brandt, P. T. O'Brien

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We report on a short optical monitoring programme of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxy IRAS 13224-3809. Previous X-ray observations of this object have shown persistent giant variability. The degree of variability at other wavelengths may then be used to constrain the conditions and emission processes within the nucleus. Optical variability is expected if the electron population responsible for the soft X-ray emission is changing rapidly and Compton-upscattering infrared photons in the nucleus, or if the mechanism responsible for X-ray emission causes all the emission processes to vary together. We find that there is no significant optical variability, with a firm upper limit of 2 per cent, and conclude that the primary soft X-ray emission region produces little of the observed optical emission. The X-ray and optical emission regions must be physically distinct and any reprocessing of X-rays into the optical waveband occurs some distance from the nucleus. The lack of optical variability indicates that the energy density of infrared radiation in the nucleus is at most equal to that of the ultraviolet radiation, because little is upscattered into the optical waveband. The extremely large X-ray variability of IRAS 13224-3809 may be explained by relativistic boosting of more modest variations. Although such boosting enhances X-ray variability over optical variability, this only partially explains the lack of optical variability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L46-L52
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 21 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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