Ionized absorbers, ionized emitters, and the X-ray spectrum of active galactic nuclei

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Broad absorption features are common in the X-ray spectrum of low-luminosity AGNs. The features have been modeled by leaky neutral absorbers or by highly ionized gas that completely occult the continuum source. Such models are incomplete since they do not take into account all the physical processes in the gas. In particular, no previous model included the X-ray emission by the ionized absorbing gas and the reflection of the continuum source radiation. The present work discusses the emission, absorption, and reflection properties of photoionized gases with emphasis on conditions thought to prevail in AGNs. It shows that such gas is likely to produce intense X-ray line and continuum radiation and to reflect a sizable fraction of the nonstellar continuum at all energies. If such gas is indeed responsible for the observed X-ray absorption, then absorption edges are much weaker than commonly assumed, and some residual X-ray continuum is likely to be observed even if the line of sight is completely blocked. Moreover, X-ray emission features may show up in sources not showing X-ray absorption. This has immense consequences for medium-resolution X-ray missions, such as BBXRT and Astro-D, and for the planned high-resolution experiments on board XMM and AXAF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-601
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 10 Jul 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: active
  • X-rays: galaxies
  • X-rays: general


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