A model for AGN variability on multiple time-scales

Lia F. Sartori, Kevin Schawinski, Benny Trakhtenbrot, Neven Caplar, Ezequiel Treister, Michael J. Koss, C. Megan Urry, Ce Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a framework to link and describe active galactic nuclei (AGN) variability on a wide range of time-scales, from days to billions of years. In particular, we concentrate on the AGN variability features related to changes in black hole fuelling and accretion rate. In our framework, the variability features observed in different AGN at different time-scales may be explained as realisations of the same underlying statistical properties. In this context, we propose a model to simulate the evolution of AGN light curves with time based on the probability density function (PDF) and power spectral density (PSD) of the Eddington ratio (L/LEdd) distribution. Motivated by general galaxy population properties, we propose that the PDF may be inspired by the L/LEdd distribution function (ERDF), and that a single (or limited number of) ERDF+PSD set may explain all observed variability features. After outlining the framework and the model, we compile a set of variability measurements in terms of structure function (SF) and magnitude difference. We then combine the variability measurements on a SF plot ranging from days to Gyr. The proposed framework enables constraints on the underlying PSD and the ability to link AGN variability on different time-scales, therefore providing new insights into AGN variability and black hole growth phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L34-L38
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • galaxies: fundamental parameters
  • quasars: general


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