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Understanding X-ray reflection emissivity profiles in AGN: locating the X-ray source




The illumination pattern (or emissivity profile) of the accretion disc due to the reflection of X-rays in active galactic nucleus can be understood in terms of relativistic effects on the rays propagating from a source in a corona surrounding the central black hole, both on their trajectories and on the accretion disc itself. Theoretical emissivity profiles due to isotropic point sources as well as simple extended geometries are computed in general relativistic ray-tracing simulations performed on graphics processing units (GPUs). Such simulations assuming only general relativity naturally explain the accretion disc emissivity profiles determined from relativistically broadened emission lines which fall off steeply (with power-law indices of between 6 and 8) over the inner regions of the disc, then flattening off to almost a constant before tending to a constant power law of index 3 over the outer disc. Simulations for a variety of source locations, extents and geometries show how the emissivity profiles depend on these properties, and when combined with reverberation time lags allow the location and extent of the primary X-ray source to be constrained. Comparing the emissivity profile determined from the broadened iron K emission line in spectra of 1H 0707−495 obtained in 2008 January to theoretical emissivity profiles and applying constraints from reverberation lags suggest that there exists an extended region of primary X-ray emission located as low as 2rg above the accretion disc, extending outwards to a radius of around 30rg.