High-density disc reflection spectroscopy of low-mass active galactic nuclei

L. Mallick, A. C. Fabian, J. A. García, J. A. Tomsick, M. L. Parker, T. Dauser, D. R. Wilkins, B. De Marco, J. F. Steiner, R. M. T. Connors, G. Mastroserio, A. G. Markowitz, C. Pinto, W. N. Alston, A. M. Lohfink, P. Gandhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Downloads (Pure)


The standard alpha-disc model predicts an anti-correlation between the density of the inner accretion disc and the black hole mass times square of the accretion rate, as seen in higher mass ($M_{\rm BH}>10^{6} M_{\odot}$) active galactic nuclei (AGNs). In this work, we test the predictions of the alpha-disc model and study the properties of the inner accretion flow for the low-mass end ($M_{\rm BH}\approx 10^{5-6}M_{\odot}$) of AGNs. We utilize a new high-density disc reflection model where the density parameter varies from $n_{\rm e}=10^{15}$ to $10^{20}$ cm$^{-3}$ and apply it to the broadband X-ray (0.3-10 keV) spectra of the low-mass AGN sample. The sources span a wide range of Eddington fractions and are consistent with being sub-Eddington or near-Eddington. The X-ray spectra reveal a soft X-ray excess below $\sim 1.5$ keV which is well modeled by high-density reflection from an ionized accretion disc of density $n_{\rm e}\sim 10^{18}$ cm$^{-3}$ on average. The results suggest a radiation pressure-dominated disc with an average of 70% fraction of the disc power transferred to the corona, consistent with that observed in higher mass AGNs. We show that the disc density higher than $10^{15}$ cm$^{-3}$ can result from the radiation pressure compression when the disc surface does not hold a strong magnetic pressure gradient. We find tentative evidence for a drop in black hole spin at low-mass regimes.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2022


  • astro-ph.HE
  • astro-ph.CO
  • astro-ph.GA

Cite this