The case for standard irradiated accretion disks in active galactic nuclei

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We analyze the broadband photometric light curves of Seyfert 1 galaxies from the Sergeev et al. sample and find that (1) perturbations propagating across the continuum emitting region are a general phenomenon securely detected in most cases, (2) it is possible to obtain reliable time delays between continuum emission in different wavebands, which are not biased by the contribution of broad emission lines to the signal, and (3) such lags are consistent with the predictions of standard irradiated accretion disk models, given the optical luminosity of the sources. These findings provide new and independent support for standard accretion disks being responsible for the bulk of the (rest) optical emission in low-luminosity active galactic nuclei (AGNs). We interpret our lag measurements in individual objects within the framework of this model and estimate the typical mass accretion rate to be ≲ 0.1 M yr-1, with little dependence on the black hole mass. Assuming bolometric corrections typical of type I sources, we find tentative evidence for the radiative efficiency of accretion flows being a rising function of the black hole mass. With upcoming surveys that will regularly monitor the sky, we may be able to better quantify possible departures from standard self-similar models, and identify other modes of accretion in AGNs.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2013


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • galaxies: active
  • methods: data analysis
  • quasars: general
  • techniques: photometric

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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