Iron Line Reverberation Mapping With ATHENA

  • Thomas MacCourt

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science (MSc)


We present numerical simulations of X-ray reverberation studies of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) with the XMM X-ray observatory and ATHENA X-ray observatory. For simplicity we assume a lamp-post source model and investigate how observations can be used to measure the black hole spin. The time averaged spectra of the simulated observations were compared to the time averaged spectra of AGN in literature and were found to be suitable for AGN which exhibit high count rates per unit energy. Potential signatures of the presence or lack of black hole spin, such as a prominent iron K-alpha fluorescence line, were identified in lag-energy spectra generated from disk response functions of varying source height and black hole spin for a variety of Fourier frequency ranges from 0.82Ms noiseless simulations using the response matrices for XMM. These signatures were then sought after in the lag-energy spectra of 0.82Ms simulations including Poisson noise generated from the same disk response functions with both XMM and ATHENA instrument responses. The results of these simulations determined that although
ATHENA was capable of identifying potential iron lines with greater success than XMM, the finding of these lines was still not trivial in noisy observations. ATHENA was capable of identifying the other potential signatures of black hole spin which were identified with greater reliability than XMM, however more simulations are required with a variety of different black hole geometries and transfer functions to fully test ATHENA’s capabilities.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAndrew J Young (Supervisor)

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