A Monte Carlo Markov Chain Based Investigation of Black Hole Spin in the Active Galaxy NGC 3783 Article uri icon


  • Reynolds, Christopher S., Brenneman, Laura W., Lohfink, Anne M., Trippe, Margaret L., Miller, Jon M., Fabian, Andrew C. and Nowak, Michael A.


  • The analysis of relativistically broadened X-ray spectral features from the inner accretion disk provides a powerful tool for measuring the spin of supermassive black holes in active galactic nuclei (AGNs). However, AGN spectra are often complex and careful analysis employing appropriate and self-consistent models is required if one has to obtain robust results. In this paper, we revisit the deep 2009 July Suzaku observation of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 3783 in order to study in a rigorous manner the robustness of the inferred black hole spin parameter. Using Monte Carlo Markov chain techniques, we identify a (partial) modeling degeneracy between the iron abundance of the disk and the black hole spin parameter. We show that the data for NGC 3783 strongly require both supersolar iron abundance (Z Fe = 2-4 Z &sun;) and a rapidly spinning black hole (a > 0.89). We discuss various astrophysical considerations that can affect the measured abundance. We note that, while the abundance enhancement inferred in NGC 3783 is modest, the X-ray analysis of some other objects has found extreme iron abundances. We introduce the hypothesis that the radiative levitation of iron ions in the innermost regions of radiation-dominated AGN disks can enhance the photospheric abundance of iron. We show that radiative levitation is a plausible mechanism in the very inner regions of high accretion rate AGN disks.

publication date

  • 2012