Near-infrared Variability of Obscured and Unobscured X-Ray-selected AGNs in the COSMOS Field

P. Sánchez, P. Lira, R. Cartier, V. Pérez, N. Miranda, C. Yovaniniz, P. Arévalo, B. Milvang-Jensen, J. Fynbo, J. Dunlop, P. Coppi, S. Marchesi

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We present our statistical study of near-infrared (NIR) variability of X-ray-selected active galactic nuclei (AGNs) in the COSMOS field, using UltraVISTA data. This is the largest sample of AGN light curves in YJHKs bands, making it possible to have a global description of the nature of AGNs for a large range of redshifts and for different levels of obscuration. To characterize the variability properties of the sources, we computed the structure function. Our results show that there is an anticorrelation between the structure function A parameter (variability amplitude) and the wavelength of emission and a weak anticorrelation between A and the bolometric luminosity. We find that broad-line (BL) AGNs have a considerably larger fraction of variable sources than narrow-line (NL) AGNs and that they have different distributions of the A parameter. We find evidence that suggests that most of the low-luminosity variable NL sources correspond to BL AGNs, where the host galaxy could be damping the variability signal. For high-luminosity variable NL sources, we propose that they can be examples of “true type II” AGNs or BL AGNs with limited spectral coverage, which results in missing the BL emission. We also find that the fraction of variable sources classified as unobscured in the X-ray is smaller than the fraction of variable sources unobscured in the optical range. We present evidence that this is related to the differences in the origin of the obscuration in the optical and X-ray regimes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2017


  • galaxies: active
  • infrared: galaxies
  • methods: statistical
  • surveys
  • X-rays: galaxies


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