Space telescope and optical reverberation mapping project. II. Swift and HST reverberation mapping of the accretion disk of NGC 5548

R. Edelson, J.~M. Gelbord, K. Horne, I.~M. McHardy, B.~M. Peterson, P. Arévalo, A.~A. Breeveld, G. De Rosa, P.~A. Evans, M.~R. Goad, G.~A. Kriss, W.~N. Brandt, N. Gehrels, D. Grupe, J.~A. Kennea, C.~S. Kochanek, J.~A. Nousek, I. Papadakis, M. Siegel, D. StarkeyP. Uttley, S. Vaughan, S. Young, A.~J. Barth, M.~C. Bentz, B.~J. Brewer, D.~M. Crenshaw, E. Dalla Bontà, A. De Lorenzo-Cáceres, K.~D. Denney, M. Dietrich, J. Ely, M.~M. Fausnaugh, C.~J. Grier, P.~B. Hall, J. Kaastra, B.~C. Kelly, K.~T. Korista, P. Lira, S. Mathur, H. Netzer, A. Pancoast, L. Pei, R.~W. Pogge, J.~S. Schimoia, T. Treu, M. Vestergaard, C. Villforth, H. Yan, Y. Zu

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Recent intensive Swift monitoring of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 yielded 282 usable epochs over 125 days across six UV/optical bands and the X-rays. This is the densest extended active galactic nucleus (AGN) UV/optical continuum sampling ever obtained, with a mean sampling rate <0.5 day. Approximately daily Hubble Space Telescope UV sampling was also obtained. The UV/optical light curves show strong correlations (${{r}_{{\rm max} }}=0.57-0.90$) and the clearest measurement to date of interband lags. These lags are well-fit by a $\tau \propto {{{\lambda }}^{4/3}}$ wavelength dependence, with a normalization that indicates an unexpectedly large disk radius of $\sim 0.35\pm 0.05$ lt-day at 1367 Å, assuming a simple face-on model. The U band shows a marginally larger lag than expected from the fit and surrounding bands, which could be due to Balmer continuum emission from the broad-line region as suggested by Korista and Goad. The UV/X-ray correlation is weaker (${{r}_{{\rm max} }}\lt 0.45$) and less consistent over time. This indicates that while Swift is beginning to measure UV/optical lags in general agreement with accretion disk theory (although the derived size is larger than predicted), the relationship with X-ray variability is less well understood. Combining this accretion disk size estimate with those from quasar microlensing studies suggests that AGN disk sizes scale approximately linearly with central black hole mass over a wide range of masses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129
Number of pages1
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2015


  • galaxies: active, galaxies: individual: NGC 5548, galaxies: nuclei, galaxies: Seyfert


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