A detailed X-ray variability study of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 4051

I. E. Papadakis, A. Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a detailed and rigorous examination of the X-ray variability characteristics of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 4051, using the 1985 EXOSAT observation and our improved power spectrum modelling techniques. The Medium Energy (ME) power spectrum is adequately fitted by a power-law model, but the Low Energy (LE) spectrum is not. We find an excellent fit by adding a broad quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) feature on a time-scale of ~1h, which contains 1/4 of the overall variance. A similar, but much weaker, feature may exist in the ME power spectrum as well. The LE power spectrum is also clearly steeper than the ME spectrum. There is no significant lag between the ME and LE data (at most 60 s), but the cross-correlation function is noticeably asymmetric. We confirm earlier claims of a correlation between softness and flux, and show that this is essentially caused by the presence of high peaks present in the LE but not in the ME light curve. We discuss various generic models for X-ray variability. In particular, several features (especially the softness effect and the cross-correlation asymmetry) are suggestive of thermal Comptonization models. We examined one of these models in detail, with parameters suggested by recent fits to the OSSE energy spectra of Seyfert galaxies. However, this model predicts that the ME spectrum should be much steeper, in contradiction with the observed facts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-183
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995




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