Black hole accretion rings revealed by future X-ray spectroscopy




Spectral features can arise by reflection of coronal X-rays on a black hole accretion disc. The resulting profile bears various imprints of a strong gravitational field acting on the light-emitting gas. The observed shape of the reflection line is formed by integrating contributions over a range of radii across the accretion disc plane, where the individual photons experience a different level of energy shifts, boosting and amplification by relativistic effects. These have to be convolved with the intrinsic emissivity of the line, which is a function of radius and the emission angle in the local frame. We study if the currently discussed instruments on-board X-ray satellites will be able to reveal the departure of the line radial emissivity from a simple smooth power-law function, which is often assumed in data fitting and its interpretation. Such a departure can be a result of excess emission occurring at a certain distance. This could be used to study variations with a radius of the line production or to constrain the position of the inner edge of the accretion disc. By simulating artificial data from a bright active galactic nucleus of a type 1 Seyfert galaxy (inclination ≃30°, X-ray flux ≃1–2 mCrab in a keV energy band) we show that the required sensitivity and energy resolution could be reached with a large area detector of the proposed Large Observatory for X-ray Timing mission. Galactic black holes will provide another category of potentially suitable targets if the relativistic spectral features are indeed produced by reflection from their accretion discs.