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Keywords:

  • galaxies: active;
  • quasars: individual: PHL 1092;
  • X-rays: galaxies;
  • X-rays: individual: PHL 1092

ABSTRACT

PHL 1092 is a z ∼ 0.4 high-luminosity counterpart of the class of Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 galaxies. In 2008, PHL 1092 was found to be in a remarkably low X-ray flux state during an XMM–Newton observation. Its 2 keV flux density had dropped by a factor of ∼260 with respect to a previous observation performed 4.5 yr earlier. The ultraviolet (UV) flux remained almost constant, resulting in a significant steepening of the optical-to-X-ray slope αox from −1.57 to −2.51, making PHL 1092 one of the most extreme X-ray weak quasars with no observed broad absorption lines (BALs) in the UV. We have monitored the source since 2008 with three further XMM–Newton observations, producing a simultaneous UV and X-ray data base spanning almost 10 yr in total in the activity of the source. Our monitoring programme demonstrates that the αox variability in PHL 1092 is entirely driven by long-term X-ray flux changes. We apply a series of physically motivated models with the goal of explaining the UV-to-X-ray spectral energy distribution and the extreme X-ray and αox variability. We consider three possible models. (i) A breathing corona scenario in which the size of the X-ray-emitting corona is correlated with the X-ray flux. In this case, the lowest X-ray flux states of PHL 1092 are associated with an almost complete collapse of the X-ray corona down to the marginal stable orbit. (ii) An absorption scenario in which the X-ray flux variability is entirely due to intervening absorption. If so, PHL 1092 is a quasar with standard X-ray output for its optical luminosity, appearing as X-ray weak at times due to absorption. (iii) A disc-reflection-dominated scenario in which the X-ray-emitting corona is confined within a few gravitational radii from the black hole at all times. In this case, the intrinsic variability of PHL 1092 only needs to be a factor of ∼10 rather than the observed factor of ∼260. We discuss these scenarios in the context of non-BAL X-ray weak quasars.