Variability of Active Galactic Nuclei from the Optical to X-ray Regions

Gaskell, C. Martin
Klimek, Elizabeth S.
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Some progress in understanding AGN variability is reviewed. Reprocessing of X-ray radiation to produce significant amounts of longer-wavelength continua seems to be ruled out. In some objects where there has been correlated X-ray and optical variability, the amplitude of the optical variability has exceeded the amplitude of X-ray variability. We suggest that accelerated particles striking material could be linking X-ray and optical variability (as in activity in the solar chromosphere). Beaming effects could be significant in all types of AGN. The diversity in optical/X-ray relationships at different times in the same object, and between different objects, might be explained by changes in geometry and directions of motion relative to our line of sight. Linear shot-noise models of the variability are ruled out; instead there must be large-scale organization of variability. Variability occurs on light-crossing timescales rather than viscous timescales and this probably rules out the standard Shakura-Sunyaev accretion disk. Radio-loud and radio-quiet AGNs have similar continuum shapes and similar variability properties. This suggests similar continuum origins and variability mechanisms. Despite their extreme X-ray variability, narrow-line Seyfert 1s (NLS1s) do not show extreme optical variability.
Comment: Invited talk given at Euro Asian Astronomical Society meeting in Moscow, June 2002. 20 pages, 4 figures. References updated
Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics, Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies