P. Uttley

University of Amsterdam, Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (162)597.03 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We report on the largest Swift AGN monitoring program, concerning UV/optical variability in Seyferts. From 554 observations, over a 750d period, of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 5548, we see (McHardy et al. 2014) a good overall correlation between the X-ray and UV/optical bands,particularly on short timescales (tens of days). The UVOT bands are found to lag behind X-rays with a lag scaling as wavelength to the power 1.23 +/- 0.31, in excellent agreement with that expected (1.33) if UV/optical variability arises from reprocessing of X-rays by the accretion disc. However, the observed lags are ~3 times longer than expected from a standard Shakura-Sunyaev disc, raising real concerns about the detailed validity of this model. The results can be explained with a slightly larger mass and accretion rate, and a hotter disc, or if the disc is clumpy, thereby enhancing the emission from the outer regions.
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    ABSTRACT: Soft lags from the emission of the lower kilohertz quasi-periodic oscillations (kHz QPOs) of neutron star low mass X-ray binaries have been reported from 4U1608-522 and 4U1636-536. Those lags hold prospects for constraining the origin of the QPO emission, including the location at which the oscillation takes place, a stepping stone before we can use the kHz QPOs to probe strong field General Relativity. In this paper, we investigate the spectral-timing properties of both the lower and upper kHz QPOs from the neutron star binary 4U1728-34, in which the duty cycles of both QPOs are comparable, using the entire Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer archive on this source. We show that the lag-energy spectra of the two QPOs are systematically different: while the lower kHz QPO shows soft lags, the upper kHz QPO shows either a flat lag-energy spectrum or hard variations lagging softer variations. This suggests two different QPO-generation mechanisms. We also computed the first covariance spectra for both kHz QPOs and performed a spectral deconvolution. The QPO spectra are consistent with Comptonized blackbody emission, similar to the one found from the decomposition of the time-averaged continuum, but with a higher seed-photon temperature, which could suggest that a more compact inner region of the Comptonization layer (boundary/spreading layer, corona) is responsible for the QPO emission. Considering our results together with other recent findings, we suggest that the lower kHz QPO signal is generated by coherent oscillations of the compact boundary layer region itself. The upper kHz QPO signal is linked to less-coherent accretion-rate variations produced in the inner accretion disk. However, the disk emission being extended, the modulation is only observed when the accretion variations reach the boundary layer.
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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 active galactic nuclei. 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 the physics of accretion and ejection around compact objects. For a summary, we refer to the paper.
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    Phil Uttley, Piergiorgio Casella
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    ABSTRACT: Multiwavelength variability data, combined with spectral-timing analysis techniques, provides information about the causal relationship between different physical components in accreting black holes. Using fast-timing data and long-term monitoring, we can probe the behaviour of the same components across the black hole mass scale. In this chapter we review the observational status of multiwavelength variability in accreting black holes, from black hole X-ray binaries to AGN, and consider the implications for models of accretion and ejection, primarily considering the evidence for accretion disc and jet variability in these systems. We end with a consideration of future prospects in this quickly-developing field.
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    ABSTRACT: Timing of high-count rate sources with the NuSTAR Small Explorer Mission requires specialized analysis techniques. NuSTAR was primarily designed for spectroscopic observations of sources with relatively low count-rates rather than for timing analysis of bright objects. The instrumental dead time per event is relatively long (~2.5 msec), and varies by a few percent event-to-event. The most obvious effect is a distortion of the white noise level in the power density spectrum (PDS) that cannot be modeled easily with the standard techniques due to the variable nature of the dead time. In this paper, we show that it is possible to exploit the presence of two completely independent focal planes and use the cross power density spectrum to obtain a good proxy of the white noise-subtracted PDS. Thereafter, one can use a Monte Carlo approach to estimate the remaining effects of dead time, namely a frequency-dependent modulation of the variance and a frequency-independent drop of the sensitivity to variability. In this way, most of the standard timing analysis can be performed, albeit with a sacrifice in signal to noise relative to what would be achieved using more standard techniques. We apply this technique to NuSTAR observations of the black hole binaries GX 339-4, Cyg X-1 and GRS 1915+105.
    The Astrophysical Journal 09/2014; 800(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/800/2/109 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: LOFT (Large Observatory for X-ray Timing) is one of the five candidates that were considered by ESA as an M3 mission (with launch in 2022-2024) and has been studied during an extensive assessment phase. It is specifically designed to perform fast X-ray timing and probe the status of the matter near black holes and neutron stars. Its pointed instrument is the Large Area Detector (LAD), a 10 m 2 -class instrument operating in the 2-30keV range, which holds the capability to revolutionise studies of variability from X-ray sources on the millisecond time scales. The LAD instrument has now completed the assessment phase but was not down-selected for launch. However, during the assessment, most of the trade-offs have been closed leading to a robust and well documented design that will be re- proposed in future ESA calls. In this talk, we will summarize the characteristics of the LAD design and give an overview of the expectations for the instrument capabilities.
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    ABSTRACT: Lags measured from correlated X-ray/UV/optical monitoring of AGN allow us to determine whether UV/optical variability is driven by reprocessing of X-rays or X-ray variability is driven by UV/optical seed photon variations. We present the results of the largest study to date of the relationship between the X-ray, UV and optical variability in an AGN with 554 observations, over a 750d period, of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 with Swift. There is a good overall correlation between the X-ray and UV/optical bands, particularly on short timescales (tens of days). These bands lag the X-ray band with lags which are proportional to wavelength to the power 1.23+/-0.31. This power is very close to the power (4/3) expected if short timescale UV/optical variability is driven by reprocessing of X-rays by a surrounding accretion disc. The observed lags, however, are longer than expected from a standard Shakura-Sunyaev accretion disc with X-ray heating, given the currently accepted black hole mass and accretion rate values, but can be explained with a slightly larger mass and accretion rate, and a generally hotter disc. Some long term UV/optical variations are not paralleled exactly in the X-rays, suggesting an additional component to the UV/optical variability arising perhaps from accretion rate perturbations propagating inwards through the disc.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 07/2014; 444(2). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stu1636 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Luminous accreting stellar mass and supermassive black holes produce power-law continuum X-ray emission from a compact central corona. Reverberation time lags occur due to light travel time-delays between changes in the direct coronal emission and corresponding variations in its reflection from the accretion flow. Reverberation is detectable using light curves made in different X-ray energy bands, since the direct and reflected components have different spectral shapes. Larger, lower frequency, lags are also seen and are identified with propagation of fluctuations through the accretion flow and associated corona. We review the evidence for X-ray reverberation in active galactic nuclei and black hole X-ray binaries, showing how it can be best measured and how it may be modelled. The timescales and energy-dependence of the high frequency reverberation lags show that much of the signal is originating from very close to the black hole in some objects, within a few gravitational radii of the event horizon. We consider how these signals can be studied in the future to carry out X-ray reverberation mapping of the regions closest to black holes.
    Astronomy and Astrophysics Review 05/2014; 22(1). DOI:10.1007/s00159-014-0072-0 · 13.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrate a new method of variability classification using observations of black hole X-ray binaries. Using `power colours' -- ratios of integrated power in different Fourier frequency bands -- we can clearly differentiate different canonical black hole states as the objects evolve during outburst. We analyse (~ 2400) Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer observations of 12 transient low mass black hole X-ray binaries and find that the path taken around the power colour-colour diagram as the sources evolve is highly consistent from object to object. We discuss how the consistency observed in the power colour-colour diagram between different objects allows for easy state classification based on only a few observations, and show how the power-spectral shapes can be simply classified using a single parameter, the power-spectral `hue'. To illustrate the benefits of our simple model-independent approach, we show that the persistent high mass X-ray binary Cyg X-1 shows very similar power-spectral evolution to the transient black hole sources, with the main difference being caused by a combination of a lack of quasi-periodic oscillations and an excess of low-frequency power-law noise in the Cyg X-1 power spectra during the transitional state. We also compare the transient objects to the neutron star atoll source Aquila X-1, demonstrating that it traces a different path in the power colour-colour plot. Thus, power-colours could be an effective method to classify newly discovered X-ray binaries.
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    ABSTRACT: We use a simple one-dimensional parameterisation of timing properties to show that hard and hard-intermediate state transient black hole X-ray binaries with the same power-spectral shape have systematically harder X-ray power-law emission in higher-inclination systems. We also show that the power-spectral shape and amplitude of the broadband noise (with low-frequency quasi-periodic oscillations, QPOs, removed) is independent of inclination, confirming that it is well-correlated with the intrinsic structure of the emitting regions and that the "type C" QPO, which is inclination-dependent, has a different origin to the noise, probably geometric. Our findings suggest that the power-law emission originates in a corona which is flattened in the plane of the disc, and not in a jet-like structure which would lead to softer spectra at higher inclinations. However, there is tentative evidence that the inclination-dependence of spectral shape breaks down deeper into the hard state, suggesting a change in the coronal geometry.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 05/2014; 448(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stv240 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We demonstrate a new method of variability classification using observations of black hole X-ray binaries. Using `power colours' -- ratios of integrated power in different Fourier frequency bands -- we can clearly differentiate different canonical black hole states as the objects evolve during outburst. We analyse (~ 2400) Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer observations of 12 transient low mass black hole X-ray binaries and find that the path taken around the power colour-colour diagram as the sources evolve is highly consistent from object to object. We discuss how the consistency observed in the power colour-colour diagram between different objects allows for easy state classification based on only a few observations, and show how the power-spectral shapes can be simply classified using a single parameter, the power-spectral `hue'. To illustrate the benefits of our simple model-independent approach, we show that the persistent high mass X-ray binary Cyg X-1 shows very similar power-spectral evolution to the transient black hole sources, with the main difference being caused by a combination of a lack of quasi-periodic oscillations and an excess of low-frequency power-law noise in the Cyg X-1 power spectra during the transitional state. We also compare the transient objects to the neutron star atoll source Aquila X-1, demonstrating that it traces a different path in the power colour-colour plot. Thus, power-colours could be an effective method to classify newly discovered X-ray binaries.
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    ABSTRACT: We present the use of continuous-time autoregressive moving average (CARMA) models as a method for estimating the variability features of a light curve, and in particular its power spectral density (PSD). CARMA models fully account for irregular sampling and measurement errors, making them valuable for quantifying variability, forecasting and interpolating light curves, and for variability-based classification. We show that the PSD of a CARMA model can be expressed as a sum of Lorentzian functions, which makes them extremely flexible and able to model a broad range of PSDs. We present the likelihood function for light curves sampled from CARMA processes, placing them on a statistically rigorous foundation, and we present a Bayesian method to infer the probability distribution of the PSD given the measured lightcurve. Because calculation of the likelihood function scales linearly with the number of data points, CARMA modeling scales to current and future massive time-domain data sets. We conclude by applying our CARMA modeling approach to light curves for an X-ray binary, two AGN, a long-period variable star, and an RR-Lyrae star, in order to illustrate their use, applicability, and interpretation.
    The Astrophysical Journal 02/2014; 788(1). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/788/1/33 · 6.28 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present the most extensive analysis of Fourier-based X-ray timing properties of the black hole binary Cygnus X-1 to date, based on 12 years of bi-weekly monitoring with RXTE from 1999 to 2011. Our aim is a comprehensive study of timing behavior across all spectral states, including the elusive transitions and extreme hard and soft states. We discuss the dependence of the timing properties on spectral shape and photon energy, and study correlations between Fourier-frequency dependent coherence and time lags with features in the power spectra. Our main results are: (a) The fractional rms in the 0.125-256 Hz range in different spectral states shows complex behavior that depends on the energy range considered. It reaches its maximum not in the hard state, but in the soft state in the Comptonized tail above 10 keV. (b) The shape of power spectra in hard and intermediate states and the normalization in the soft state are strongly energy dependent in the 2.1-15 keV range. This emphasizes the need for an energy-dependent treatment of power spectra and a careful consideration of energy- and mass-scaling when comparing the variability of different source types, e.g., black hole binaries and AGN. PSDs during extremely hard and extremely soft states can be easily confused for energies above ~5 keV in the 0.125-256 Hz range. (c) The coherence between energy bands drops during transitions from the intermediate into the soft state but recovers in the soft state. (d) The time lag spectra in soft and intermediate states show distinct features at frequencies related to the frequencies of the main variability components seen in the power spectra and show the same shift to higher frequencies as the source softens. [...abridged] In particular, we discuss how the timing properties of Cyg X-1 can be used to assess the evolution of variability with spectral shape in other black hole binaries. [...abridged]
    Astronomy and Astrophysics 02/2014; 565. DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201322969 · 4.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: LOFT, the Large Observatory For X-ray Timing, is one of five ESA M3 candidate missions. It will address the Cosmic Vision theme: "Matter under Extreme Conditions". By coupling for the first time a huge collecting area for the detection of X-ray photons with CCD-quality spectral resolution (15 times bigger in area than any previously flown X-ray instrument and >100 times bigger for spectroscopy than any similar-resolution instrument), the instruments on-board LOFT have been designed to (i) determine the properties of ultradense matter by reconstructing its Equation of State through neutron star mass and radius measurements of unprecedented accuracy; (ii) measure General Relativity effects in the strong field regime in the stationary spacetimes of neutron stars and black holes of all masses down to a few gravitational radii. Besides the above two themes, LOFT's observations will be devoted to "observatory science", providing new insights in a number of research fields in high energy astrophysics (e.g. Gamma-ray Bursts). The assessment study phase of LOFT, which ended in September 2013, demonstrated that the mission is low risk and the required Technology Readiness Level can be easily reached in time for a launch by the end of 2022.
    The European Physical Journal Conferences 12/2013; 64. DOI:10.1051/epjconf/20136409002
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    ABSTRACT: High-frequency iron K reverberation lags, where the red wing of the line responds before the line centroid, are a robust signature of relativistic reflection off the inner accretion disc. In this letter, we report the discovery of the Fe K lag in PG 1244+026 from ~120 ks of data (1 orbit of the XMM-Newton telescope). The amplitude of the lag with respect to the continuum is 1000 s at a frequency of ~1e-4 Hz. We also find a possible frequency-dependence of the line: as we probe higher frequencies (i.e. shorter timescales from a smaller emitting region) the Fe K lag peaks at the red wing of the line, while at lower frequencies (from a larger emitting region) we see the dominant reflection lag from the rest frame line centroid. The mean energy spectrum shows a strong soft excess, though interestingly, there is no indication of a soft lag. Given that this source has radio emission and it has little reported correlated variability between the soft excess and the hard band, we explore one possible explanation in which the soft excess in this source is dominated by the steep power-law like emission from a jet, and that a corona (or base of the jet) irradiates the inner accretion disc, creating the blurred reflection features evident in the spectrum and the lag. General Relativistic ray-tracing models fit the Fe K lag well, with the best-fit giving a compact X-ray source at a height of 5 gravitational radii and a black hole mass of 1.3e7 Msun.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; 439(1). DOI:10.1093/mnrasl/slt173 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The recent detection of X-ray reverberation lags, especially in the Fe K$\alpha$ line region, around Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) has opened up the possibility of studying the time-resolved response (reflection) of hard X-rays from the accretion disk around supermassive black holes. Here, we use general relativistic transfer functions for reflection of X-rays from a point source located at some height above the black hole to study the time lags expected as a function of frequency and energy in the Fe K$\alpha$ line region. We explore the models and the dependence of the lags on key parameters such as the height of the X-ray source, accretion disk inclination, black hole spin and black hole mass. We then compare these models with the observed frequency and energy dependence of the Fe K$\alpha$ line lag in NGC 4151. Assuming the optical reverberation mapping mass of $4.6\times10^7~M_\odot$ we get a best fit to the lag profile across the Fe K$\alpha$ line in the frequency range $(1-2)\times10^{-5}$ Hz for an X-ray source located at a height $h = 7^{+2.9}_{-2.6}~R_G$ with a maximally spinning black hole and an inclination $i < 30^\circ$.
    Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 11/2013; 438(4). DOI:10.1093/mnras/stt2424 · 5.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigate the complex behavior of energy- and frequency-dependent time/phase lags in the plateau state and the radio-quiet hard state of GRS 1915+105. In our timing analysis, we find that when the source is faint in the radio, QPOs are observed above 2 Hz and typically exhibit soft lags (soft photons lag hard photons), whereas QPOs in the radio-bright plateau state are found below 2.2 Hz and consistently show hard lags. The phase lag at the QPO frequency is strongly anti-correlated with the QPO frequency, changing sign at 2.2 Hz. However, the phase lag at the frequency of the first harmonic is positive and nearly independent of frequency at at ~0.172 rad, regardless of the radio emission. The lag-energy dependence at the first harmonic is also independent of radio flux. However, the lags at the QPO frequency are negative at all energies during the radio-quiet state, but lags at the QPO frequency during the plateau state are positive at all energies and show a 'reflection-type' evolution of the lag-energy spectra with respect to the radio-quiet state. The lag-energy dependence is roughly logarithmic, but there is some evidence for a break around 4-6 keV. Finally, the Fourier frequency-dependent phase lag spectra are fairly flat during the plateau state, but increase from negative to positive during the radio-quiet state. We discuss the implications of our results in the light of some generic models.
    The Astrophysical Journal 10/2013; 778(2). DOI:10.1088/0004-637X/778/2/136 · 6.28 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
597.03 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2006–2015
    • University of Amsterdam
      • Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1998–2012
    • University of Southampton
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Southampton, England, United Kingdom
  • 2005
    • Johns Hopkins University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
    • University of Leicester
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Leiscester, England, United Kingdom
  • 2003
    • University of New Hampshire
      Durham, New Hampshire, United States