S. Vaughan

University of Leicester, Leiscester, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (115)451.5 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We have used pointed RXTE data to examine the long-term X-ray light curves of six transient black hole X-ray binaries during their decay from outburst to quiescence. In most cases there is a period of exponential decay as the source approaches the soft-to-hard state transition, and another period of exponential decay following this transition as the source decays in the hard state. The e-folding times change around the time of the state transition, from typically approx 12 days at the end of the soft state to approx 7 days at the beginning of the hard state. This factor ~2 change in the decay timescale is expected if there is a change from radiatively efficient emission in the soft state to radiatively inefficient emission in the hard state, overlying an exponential decay in the mass accretion rate. This adds support to the idea that the X-ray emitting region is governed by radiatively inefficient accretion (such as an advection-dominated or jet-dominated accretion flow) during the fading hard state.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 04/2015; 450(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv739 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent intensive Swift monitoring of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 yielded 282 usable epochs over 125 days across six UV/optical bands and the X-rays. This is the densest extended AGN UV/optical continuum sampling ever obtained, with a mean sampling rate < 0.5-day. Approximately daily HST UV sampling was also obtained. The UV/optical light curves show strong correlations (r_max = 0.57 - 0.90) and the clearest measurement to date of interband lags. These lags are well-fit by a lambda^4/3 wavelength dependence, with a normalization that indicates an unexpectedly large disk size of ~0.35 +/- 0.05 lt-day at 1367 A, assuming a simple face-on model. The U-band shows a marginally larger lag than expected from the fit and surrounding bands, which could be due to Balmer continuum emission from the broad-line region as suggested by Korista and Goad. The UV/X-ray correlation is weaker (r_max < 0.45) and less consistent over time. This indicates that while Swift is beginning to measure UV/optical lags in agreement with accretion disk theory, the relationship between X-ray and UV variability is less fully understood. Combining this accretion disk size estimate with those estimated from quasar microlensing studies suggests that AGN disk sizes scale approximately linearly with central black hole mass over a wide range of masses.
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    ABSTRACT: We describe the first results from a six-month long reverberation-mapping experiment in the ultraviolet based on 170 observations of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope. Significant correlated variability is found in the continuum and broad emission lines, with amplitudes ranging from ~30% to a factor of two in the emission lines and a factor of three in the continuum. The variations of all the strong emission lines lag behind those of the continuum, with He II 1640 lagging behind the continuum by ~2.5 days and Lyman alpha 1215, C IV 1550, and Si IV 1400 lagging by ~5-6 days. The relationship between the continuum and emission lines is complex. In particular, during the second half of the campaign, all emission-line lags increased by a factor of 1.3-2 and differences appear in the detailed structure of the continuum and emission-line light curves. Velocity-resolved cross-correlation analysis shows coherent structure in lag versus line-of-sight velocity for the emission lines; the high-velocity wings of C IV respond to continuum variations more rapidly than the line core, probably indicating higher velocity BLR clouds at smaller distances from the central engine. The velocity-dependent response of Lyman alpha, however, is more complex and will require further analysis.
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    ABSTRACT: This is a White Paper in support of the mission concept of the Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT), proposed as a medium-sized ESA mission. We discuss the potential of LOFT for the study of very faint X-ray binaries, orbital period distribution of black hole X-ray binaries and neutron star spin up. For a summary, we refer to the paper.
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    ABSTRACT: This is a White Paper in support of the mission concept of the Large Observatory for X-ray Timing (LOFT), proposed as a medium-sized ESA mission. We discuss the potential of LOFT for the study of active galactic nuclei. For a summary, we refer to the paper.
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    Andrew Lobban, William Alston, Simon Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: Using new XMM-Newton observations we detect hard X-ray time lags in the rapid variability of the Compton-thin Seyfert 2 galaxy IRAS 18325-5926. The higher-energy X-ray variations lag behind correlated lower-energy variations by up to ~3ks and the magnitude of the lag increases clearly with energy separation between the energy bands. We find that the lag-energy spectrum has a relatively simple log(E) shape. This is quite different in both shape and magnitude from the lags predicted by simple reflection models, but very similar to the hard X-ray lags often seen in black hole X-ray binaries. We apply several spectral models to the lag-energy spectrum and rule out simple reflection as an origin for the hard lags. We find that both propagating fluctuations embedded in the accretion flow and electron scattering from material embedded in or behind a cold absorbing medium offer equally good fits to the observed low-frequency hard X-ray lags and are both consistent with the time-averaged spectrum. Such models will likely look very different outside of XMM-Newton's observable bandpass, paving the way for future studies with NuSTAR.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 09/2014; 445(3). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu1888 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present time series analyses of the full Kepler dataset of Zw 229-15. This Kepler light curve --- with a baseline greater than three years, composed of virtually continuous, evenly sampled 30-minute measurements --- is unprecedented in its quality and precision. We utilize two methods of power spectral analysis to investigate the optical variability and search for evidence of a bend frequency associated with a characteristic optical variability timescale. Each method yields similar results. The first interpolates across data gaps to use the standard Fourier periodogram. The second, using the CARMA-based time-domain modeling technique of Kelly et al. (2014), does not need evenly-sampled data. Both methods find excess power at high frequencies that may be due to Kepler instrumental effects. More importantly both also show strong bends ({\Delta}{\alpha} ~ 2) at timescales of ~5 days, a feature similar to those seen in the X-ray PSDs of AGN but never before in the optical. This observed ~5 day timescale may be associated with one of several physical processes potentially responsible for the variability. A plausible association could be made with light-crossing, dynamical or thermal timescales, depending on the assumed value of the accretion disk size and on unobserved disk parameters such as {\alpha} and H/R. This timescale is not consistent with the viscous timescale, which would be years in a ~10^7 Solar mass AGN such as Zw 229-15. However there must be a second bend on long (>~1 year) timescales, and that feature could be associated with the viscous timescale.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2014; 795(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/795/1/2 · 6.28 Impact Factor
  • S. Vaughan, R. J. Bailey, D. G. Smith
    Geological Society London Special Publications 04/2014; 404(1). DOI:10.1144/SP404.11 · 2.58 Impact Factor
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    Andrew Lobban, Simon Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: IRAS 18325-5926 is an X-ray bright, Compton-thin, type-2 Seyfert galaxy and it was the first Seyfert 2 in which the presence of a broad Fe K-alpha emission line was claimed. However, although the structure of the Fe line appears broad, there is tentative evidence that it may comprise multiple lines. Nevertheless, previous analyses have only consisted of fitting standalone broad components to the Fe K band. Here, we have analyzed all available X-ray CCD data from Suzaku, XMM-Newton and ASCA to fully investigate the nature of the emission complex by testing broad-band physical models and alternative hypotheses. We find that both a model consisting of broad, blurred reflection from an ionized accretion disc and a model consisting of cold, neutral reflection plus narrow emission lines from highly-ionized photoionized gas (log \xi = 3.5) offer statistically comparable fits to the data although the true reality of the Fe line cannot currently be determined with existing data. However, it is hoped that better quality data and improved photon statistics in the Fe K band will allow a more robust distinction between models to be made.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 01/2014; 439(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu002 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Near-infrared reverberation measurements have proven to be a valuable tool for mapping the location of hot dust in active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Ground-based campaigns have shown that the K-band continuum varies in response to changes in the optical continuum, and measurements of the K-band lag time give the size scale of the hot dust emission region, which likely corresponds to the dust sublimation radius. Reverberation measurements at longer wavelengths can add valuable information on the dust temperature profile in AGNs and the structure of the putative dusty torus. We have conducted a space based monitoring campaign of the Seyfert 1 galaxy Zw 229-015 using optical data from the Kepler Space Telescope and infrared data (3.6 micron) from the Spitzer Space telescope. We have also augmented the optical data with multiple ground based observatories. We have detected infrared reverberation both on short and long timescales.
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    William Alston, Chris Done, Simon Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: We analyse the X-ray time-lags in the Narrow Line Seyfert 1 (NLS1) galaxy PG 1244+026 ($M_{\rm BH}\sim 10^7 M_{\rm sun}$, $L/L_{\rm Edd}\sim 1$). The time delay between the soft (0.3--0.7~keV) and harder (1.2--4.0~keV) variations shows shows the well established switch from hard lags at low frequencies to soft lags at high frequencies. The low frequency hard lags are qualitatively consistent with the propagation of fluctuations model, with some long-timescale response of the reflection component. The high frequency soft lag appears to extend over a wide frequency band, that we divide this into two narrow frequency ranges, and examine the lag as a function of energy for each of these. At high frequencies the soft excess emission is delayed with respect to the harder energy bands, without any corresponding strong, hard X-ray reflection signature. At even higher frequencies a soft lag is seen at the softest energies, as well as tentative evidence for an iron K$\alpha$ reverberation signal. These results point to the importance of reprocessing as well as reflection in determining the lags in NLS1s.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; 439(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu005 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: By comparing the orbital period distributions of black hole and neutron star low mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) in the Ritter-Kolb catalogue we show that there is statistical evidence for a dearth of black hole systems at short orbital periods (P_orb < 4h). This could either be due to a true divergence in orbital period distributions of these two types of system, or to black hole LMXBs being preferentially hidden from view at short orbital periods. We explore the latter possibility, by investigating whether black hole LMXBs could be concealed by a switch to radiatively inefficient accretion at low luminosities. The peak luminosity and the duration of X-ray binary outbursts are related to the disc radius and, hence, the orbital period. At short periods, where the peak outburst luminosity drops close to the threshold for radiatively inefficient accretion, black hole LMXBs have lower outburst luminosities, shorter outburst durations and lower X-ray duty cycles than comparable neutron star systems. These factors can combine to severely reduce the detection probability of short period black hole LMXBs relative to those containing neutron stars. We estimate the outburst properties and orbital period distribution of black hole LMXBs using two models of the transition to radiatively inefficient accretion: an instantaneous drop in accretion efficiency (eta) to zero, at a fraction (f) of the Eddington luminosity (L_Edd) and a power-law efficiency decrease, eta \propto \dot{M}^n, for L < f*L_Edd. We show that a population of black hole LMXBs at short orbital periods can only be hidden by a sharp drop in efficiency, either instantaneous or for n >= 3. This could be achieved by a genuine drop in luminosity or through abrupt spectral changes that shift the accretion power out of a given X-ray band.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 10/2013; 437(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stt2008 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    W. N. Alston, S. Vaughan, P. Uttley
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of the X-ray time lags for the highly variable Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 4051, based on a series of XMM-Newton observations taken in 2009. We investigate the Fourier frequency dependent time lags in the light curves between the 0.3--1.0 keV and 2.0--5.0 keV energy bands as a function of source flux, including simultaneous modelling of the resulting lag-frequency spectra. We find the shape of the lag-frequency spectra to vary significantly and systematically with source flux. We model the lag-frequency spectra using simple transfer functions, and find that two time lag components are required, one in each energy band. The simplest acceptable fits have only the relative contribution of the lagged component in the hard band varying with flux level, which can be associated with changes in the energy spectrum. We discuss the interpretation of these results in terms of the currently popular models for X-ray time lags.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2013; 435(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stt1391 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent advances in surgery have focussed on perioperative care and interventions to improve outcome following surgery. Psychological preparation has a positive impact on recovery and incorporates a range of strategies with dissemination of information as one of the key elements. Information can be given verbally, through printed information or through use of a video. Traditionally, reliance has been on the use of written material as an adjunct to patient education in clinic. The current study is a randomised trial on the use of video education in patients undergoing elective colorectal resection within an enhanced recovery programme. 65 eligible patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery were identified and 61 randomised between August 2010 and August 2011 to either video and information leaflets or information leaflets alone. A fast track protocol was established for all the patients. Clinicians in charge of postoperative recovery were blinded. Standard discharge criteria were employed for all patients. Of 61 patients randomised, 1 dropped out and outcomes on 60 were analysed. There was no difference in baseline characteristics between the groups (age: p=0.964, BMI: 0.829). Twenty-eight (91%) patients in the video group had left sided while 2 (6%) had right sided resections. 19 (66%) in the non-video group had left sided while 9 (31%) had right sided resections. 1 (3%) patient in the non-video group and 1 (3%) in the video group had a total colectomy. Fourteen (45%) patients in the video group and 12 (41%) in the non-video group had surgery completed laparoscopically. There was no difference in the primary (median hospital stay 5 vs 5 days; p= 0.239) or the secondary outcomes measures (pain score on movement p= 0.338, pain score at rest p= 0.989, nausea score, p=0.74, epidural use p=0.984, paracetamol use p= 0.44, voltarol use p=0.506) between the groups. Use of video education in the psychological preparation of patients undergoing elective colorectal surgery does not improve short term outcomes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Colorectal Disease 07/2013; 15(11). DOI:10.1111/codi.12348 · 2.02 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the astrophysics of feedback in active galactic nuclei (AGN) is key to understanding the growth and co-evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies. AGN-driven winds/outflows are potentially the most effective way of transporting energy and momentum from the nuclear scales to the host galaxy, quenching star formation by sweeping away the gas reservoir. Key questions in this field are: 1) how do accretion disks around black holes launch winds/outflows, and how much energy do these carry? 2) How are the energy and metals accelerated in winds/outflows transferred and deposited into the circumgalactic medium? X-ray observations are a unique way to address these questions because they probe the phase of the outflows which carries most of the kinetic energy. We show how a high throughput, high spectral resolution instrument like the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) on Athena+ will allow us to address these questions by determining the physical parameters (ionization state, density, temperature, abundances, velocities, geometry, etc.) of the outflows on a dynamical time-scale, in a broad sample of nearby bright AGN. The X-IFU will also allow direct spectral imaging of the impact of these winds on the host galaxy for local AGN, forming a template for understanding AGN at higher redshifts where wind shocks cannot be resolved.
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    ABSTRACT: This White Paper, submitted to the recent ESA call for science themes to define its future large missions, advocates the need for a transformational leap in our understanding of two key questions in astrophysics: 1) How does ordinary matter assemble into the large scale structures that we see today? 2) How do black holes grow and shape the Universe? Hot gas in clusters, groups and the intergalactic medium dominates the baryonic content of the local Universe. To understand the astrophysical processes responsible for the formation and assembly of these large structures, it is necessary to measure their physical properties and evolution. This requires spatially resolved X-ray spectroscopy with a factor 10 increase in both telescope throughput and spatial resolving power compared to currently planned facilities. Feedback from supermassive black holes is an essential ingredient in this process and in most galaxy evolution models, but it is not well understood. X-ray observations can uniquely reveal the mechanisms launching winds close to black holes and determine the coupling of the energy and matter flows on larger scales. Due to the effects of feedback, a complete understanding of galaxy evolution requires knowledge of the obscured growth of supermassive black holes through cosmic time, out to the redshifts where the first galaxies form. X-ray emission is the most reliable way to reveal accreting black holes, but deep survey speed must improve by a factor ~100 over current facilities to perform a full census into the early Universe. The Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (Athena+) mission provides the necessary performance (e.g. angular resolution, spectral resolution, survey grasp) to address these questions and revolutionize our understanding of the Hot and Energetic Universe. These capabilities will also provide a powerful observatory to be used in all areas of astrophysics.
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    ABSTRACT: In order to discern the physical nature of many gamma-ray sources in the sky, we must look not only in spectral and spatial dimensions, but also understand their temporal variability. However, timing analysis of sources with a highly transient nature, such as magnetar bursts, is difficult: standard Fourier techniques developed for long-term variability generally observed, for example, from AGN often do not apply. Here, we present newly developed timing methods applicable to transient events of all kinds, and show their successful application to magnetar bursts observed with Fermi/GBM. Magnetars are a prime subject for timing studies, thanks to the detection of quasi-periodicities in magnetar Giant Flares and their potential to help shed light on the structure of neutron stars. Using state-of-the art statistical techniques, we search for quasi-periodicities (QPOs) in a sample of bursts from Soft Gamma Repeater SGR J0501+4516 observed with Fermi/GBM and provide upper limits for potential QPO detections. Additionally, for the first time, we characterise the broadband variability behaviour of magnetar bursts and highlight how this new information could provide us with another way to probe these mysterious objects.
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first Kepler monitoring of a strongly variable BL Lac, W2R1926+42. The light curve covers 181 days with ~0.2% errors, 30 minute sampling and >90% duty cycle, showing numerous delta I/I > 25% flares over timescales as short as a day. The flux distribution is highly skewed and non-Gaussian. The variability shows a strong rms-flux correlation with the clearest evidence to date for non-linearity in this relation. We introduce a method to measure periodograms from the discrete autocorrelation function, an approach that may be well-suited to a wide range of Kepler data. The periodogram is not consistent with a simple power-law, but shows a flattening at frequencies below 7x10-5 Hz. Simple models of the power spectrum, such as a broken power law, do not produce acceptable fits, indicating that the Kepler blazar light curve requires more sophisticated mathematical and physical descriptions than currently in use.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2013; 766(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/766/1/16 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    Simon Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: Progress in astronomy comes from interpreting the signals encoded in the light received from distant objects: the distribution of light over the sky (images), over photon wavelength (spectrum), over polarization angle and over time (usually called light curves by astronomers). In the time domain, we see transient events such as supernovae, gamma-ray bursts and other powerful explosions; we see periodic phenomena such as the orbits of planets around nearby stars, radio pulsars and pulsations of stars in nearby galaxies; and we see persistent aperiodic variations ('noise') from powerful systems such as accreting black holes. I review just a few of the recent and future challenges in the burgeoning area of time domain astrophysics, with particular attention to persistently variable sources, the recovery of reliable noise power spectra from sparsely sampled time series, higher order properties of accreting black holes, and time delays and correlations in multi-variate time series.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 02/2013; 371(1984):20110549. DOI:10.1098/rsta.2011.0549 · 2.86 Impact Factor
  • O. González-Martín, S. Vaughan
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    ABSTRACT: We have performed a uniform analysis of the power spectrum densities (PSDs) of 104 nearby (z<0.4) active galactic nuclei (AGN) using 209 XMM-Newton/pn observations, including several AGN classes. These PSDs span ~= 3 decades in temporal frequencies, ranging from minutes to days. We have fitted each PSD to two models: (1) a single power-law model and (2) a bending power-law model. A fraction of 72% show significant variability. The PSD of the majority of the variable AGN was well described by a simple power-law with a mean index of α = 2.01+/-0.01. In 15 sources we found that the bending power law model was preferred with a mean slope of α = 3.08+/-0.04 and a mean bend frequency of <ν b > ~= 2 × 10-4 Hz. Only KUG 1031+398 (RE J1034+396) shows evidence for quasi-periodic oscillations. The `fundamental plane' relating variability timescale, black hole mass, and luminosity is demonstrated using the new X-ray timing results presented here together with a compilation of the previously detected timescales from the literature.
    Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 02/2013; 8(S290):37-40. DOI:10.1017/S1743921312019151