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Habilitation à diriger des recherches

Unification of Active Galactic Nuclei at X-rays and soft gamma-rays

Volker Beckmann 1
1 APC - AHE - APC - Astrophysique des Hautes Energies
APC (UMR_7164) - AstroParticule et Cosmologie, Dipartimento di Astronomia, Universita degli Studi di Bologna
Abstract : Through the work on X-ray and gamma-ray data of AGN I contributed significantly to the progress in the unification of AGN since I finished my PhD in 2000.

The study of the evolutionary behaviour of X-ray selected blazars (Beckmann & Wolter 2001; Beckmann et al. 2002, 2003b; Beckmann 2003) shows that their evolution is not as strongly negative as indicated by previous studies. The overall luminosity function is consistent with no evolution in the 0.1−2.4 keV band as seen by ROSAT/PSPC. There is still a difference compared to the luminosity function of FSRQ and LBL, which seem to show a positive evolution, indicating that they have been more luminous and/or numerous at cosmological distances. We indicated a scenario in order to explain this discrepancy, in which the high luminous FSRQ develop into the fainter LBL and finally into the BL Lac objects with high frequency peaks in their spectral energy distribution but overall low bolometric luminosity.

Studying the variability pattern of hard X-ray selected Seyfert galaxies, we actually found differences between type 1 and type 2 objects, in the sense that type 2 seemed to be more variable (Beckmann et al. 2007a). This breaking of the unified model is caused by the different average luminosity of the absorbed and unabsorbed sources, as discussed in Sect. 4.7.3. This can be explained by a larger inner disk radius when the AGN core is most active (the so-called receding disc model).

The work on the sample characteristics of hard X-ray detected AGN also led to the proof that the average intrinsic spectra of type 1 and type 2 objects are the same when reflection processes are taken into account (Beckmann et al. 2009d). This also explains why in the past Seyfert 2 objects were seen to have harder X-ray spectra than Seyfert 1, as the stronger reflection hump in the type 2 objects makes the spectra appear to be flatter, although the underlying continuum is the same.

Further strong evidence for the unification scheme comes from the observation of a fundamental plane which connects type 1 and type 2 objects smoothly (Beckmann et al. 2009d). In addition, in the case of the Seyfert 1.9 galaxy MCG-05-23-016 I showed that the spectral energy distribution of this source and its accretion rate is similar to that of a Galactic binary (Beckmann et al. 2008a).

Throughout the studies I have shown that the intrinsic spectral shape appears to be very stable on weeks to year time scale (Beckmann et al. 2004d, 2005b, 2007b, 2008a). This implies that the overall geometry of the AGN over these time scales did not change dramatically. The variations in intensity can then be explained in two ways: either the amount of material emitting the hard X-rays varies, or the amount of plasma visible to the observer varied, e.g. through different orientation of the disk with respect to the observer. In an upcoming paper we will show though, that NGC 4151 indeed also shows different spectral states, similar to the low-hard versus high-soft spectra in Galactic black hole binaries (Lubinski et al. 2010). A similar result seems to emerge from our INTEGRAL studies on NGC 2110 (Beckmann & Do Cao 2011). For INTEGRAL's AO-8 I have submitted a proposal in order to study spectral states in the Seyfert 2 galaxy NGC 2992, which seems to show a state change over the past 5 years as seen in Swift/BAT longterm monitoring.

The work on the luminosity function of AGN at hardest X-rays (Beckmann et al. 2006d) had a large impact on our understanding of the cosmic X-ray background. As this was the first study of its kind, it showed for the first time that indeed the fraction of highly obscured Compton thick AGN is much lower than expected before the launch of INTEGRAL and Swift. The X-ray luminosity function we revealed is indeed not consistent with the source population seen by INTEGRAL (Beckmann et al. 2006a, 2009d; Sazonov et al. 2007) and Swift (Tueller et al. 2008) being the only contributors to the cosmic hard X-ray background. Thus other sources outside the parameter space observable by these missions have to contribute significantly to the cosmic X-ray background. Our work on the luminosity function triggered several other studies on this issue. The subsequent derived luminosity functions by other groups (Sazonov et al. 2007; Tueller et al. 2008; Paltani et al. 2008) are consistent with our findings.

This also gave rise to an increased interest in the exact shape of the Cosmic X-ray background around its peak at 30 keV, triggering several attempts to a new measurement. Background studies were presented based on a Earth-occultation observation by INTEGRAL (Churazov et al. 2007, 2008; Türler et al. 2010) and by Swift (Ajello et al. 2008).

The understanding of the emission processes in AGN requires knowledge over a wide range of the spectral energy distribution (SED). In studies using CGRO/EGRET and Fermi/LAT data I derived the SED for blazars and non-blazars towards the gamma-ray range (Beckmann 2003; Beckmann et al. 2004b, 2010b). The work on the LAT data not only presented the gamma-ray detection of five gamma-ray blazars (QSO B0836+710, RX J1111.5+3452, H 1426+428, RX J1924.8-2914, and PKS 2149-306) for the first time, but also showed the potential in the combination of INTEGRAL and Fermi data. In the case of Cen A I derived the total energy output of the inverse Compton component based on the combined LAT, ISGRI, and JEM-X data, showing evidence for a spectral break at several hundred keV (Beckmann et al. 2010b).
In addition I successfully showed that gamma-ray blazars can be predicted through the study of their synchrotron branch at energies below 2 keV (Beckmann 2003 and this work).

Contributions of mine to research in fields other than AGN include the study of INTEGRAL detected gamma-ray bursts (e.g. Beckmann et al. 2003a, 2004a, 2008b, 2009a). Here and in collaboration with other colleagues I showed the potential of INTEGRAL data on GRB research. In the field of Galactic X-ray binaries I published one of the first Swift results on a newly discovered highly absorbed HMXB, IGR J16283-4838 (Beckmann et al. 2005a, 2006b). I also contributed significantly to analysis of many other Galactic sources, as shown in Section 4.6.1.

Document type :
Habilitation à diriger des recherches
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Contributor : Volker Beckmann <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 3:02:42 PM
Last modification on : Friday, October 30, 2020 - 12:04:02 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-00601042, version 1


Volker Beckmann. Unification of Active Galactic Nuclei at X-rays and soft gamma-rays. Astrophysics [astro-ph]. Université Paris-Diderot - Paris VII, 2010. ⟨tel-00601042⟩



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