X-ray binary accretion states in AGN? Sensing the accretion disc of supermassive black holes with mid-IR nebular lines

Accretion states, which are universally observed in stellar-mass black holes in X-ray binaries, are also anticipated in active galactic nuclei (AGN). This is the case at low luminosities, when the jet-corona coupling dominates the energy output in both populations. Previous attempts to extend this framework to a wider AGN population have been extremely challenging due to heavy hydrogen absorption of the accretion disc continuum and starlight contamination from the host galaxies. We present the luminosity-excitation diagram (LED), based on the [OIV]25.9µm and [NeII]12.8µm mid-infrared nebular line fluxes. This tool enables to probe the accretion disc contribution to the ionising continuum. When applied to a sample of 167 nearby AGN, the LED recovers the characteristic q-shaped morphology outlined by individual X-ray binaries during a typical accretion episode, allowing us to tentatively identify the main accretion states. The soft state would include broad-line Seyferts and about half of the Seyfert 2 population, showing highly excited gas and radio-quiet cores consistent with disc-dominated nuclei. The hard state mostly includes low-luminosity AGN (

07/10/2021 - 12:30
Dr Juan Antonio Fernández Ontiveros
CEFCA (Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón), Teruel, España