P. Uttley

University of Amsterdam, Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (166)620.33 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We present analysis of fast variability of Very Large Telescope/ISAAC (infra-red), \textit{XMM-Newton}/OM (optical) and EPIC-pn (X-ray), and RXTE/PCA (X-ray) observations of the black hole X-ray binary GX 339-4 in a rising hard state of its outburst in 2010. We report the first detection of a Quasi Periodic Oscillation (QPO) in the infra-red band (IR) of a black hole X-ray binary. The QPO is detected at 0.08 Hz in the IR as well as two optical bands (U and V). Interestingly, these QPOs are at half the X-ray QPO frequency at 0.16 Hz, which is classified as the type-C QPO; a weak sub-harmonic close to the IR and optical QPO frequency is also detected in X-rays. The broad band sub-second time scale variability is strongly correlated in IR/X-ray bands, with X-rays leading the IR by over 100 ms. This short time delay, shape of the cross correlation function and spectral energy distribution strongly indicate that this broad band variable IR emission is the synchrotron emission from the jet. A jet origin for the IR QPO is strongly favoured, but cannot be definitively established with the current data. The spectral energy distribution indicates a thermal disc origin for the bulk of the optical emission, but the origin of the optical QPO is unclear. We discuss our findings in the context of the existing models proposed to explain the origin of variability.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present ground-based optical photometric monitoring data for NGC 5548, part of an extended multi-wavelength reverberation mapping campaign. The light curves have nearly daily cadence from 2014 January to July in nine filters ($BVRI$ and $ugriz$). Combined with UV data from the $Hubble$ $Space$ $Telescope$ and $Swift$, we confirm significant time delays between the continuum bands as a function of wavelength, extending the wavelength coverage from $1158\,{\rm \AA}$ to the $z$-band ($\sim\! 9160\,{\rm \AA}$). We find that the lags at wavelengths longer than the $V$ band are equal to or greater than the lags of high ionization-state emission lines (such as HeII$\lambda 1640$ and $\lambda 4686$), suggesting that the continuum emitting source is of a physical size comparable to the inner broad line region. The trend of lag with wavelength is broadly consistent with the prediction for continuum reprocessing by an accretion disk with $\tau \propto \lambda^{4/3}$. However, the lags also imply a disk radius that is 3 times larger than the prediction from standard thin-disk theory, assuming that the bolometric luminosity is 10\% of the Eddington luminosity ($L = 0.1L_{\rm Edd}$). Using optical spectra from the Large Binocular Telescope, we estimate the bias of the inter-band continuum lags due to broad line region emission observed in the filters. We find that the bias for filters with high levels of BLR contamination ($\sim\! 20\%$) can be important for the shortest continuum lags, and likely has a significant impact on the $u$ and $U$ bands due to Balmer continuum emission.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We present long term monitoring of MCG-6-30-15 in X-rays, optical and near-IR wavelengths, collected over five years of monitoring. We determine the power spectrum density of all the observed bands and show that after taking into account the host contamination similar power is observed in the optical and near-IR bands. There is evidence for a correlation between the light curves of the X-ray photon flux and the optical B-band, but it is not possible to determine a lag with certainty, with the most likely value being around zero days. Strong correlation is seen between the optical and near-IR bands. Cross correlation analysis shows some complex probability distributions and lags that range from 10 to 20 days, with the near-IR following the optical variations. Filtering the light curves in frequency space shows that the strongest correlations are those corresponding to the shortest time-scales. We discuss the nature of the X-ray variability and conclude that this is intrinsic and cannot be accounted for by absorption episodes due to material intervening in the line of sight. It is also found that the lags agree with the relation tau ~ lambda^(4/3), as expected for an optically thick geometrically thin accretion disc, although for a larger disc than that predicted by the estimated black hole mass and accretion rate in MCG-6-30-15. The cross correlation analysis suggests that the torus is located at ~20 light-days from the central source and at most at ~50 light-days from the central region. This implies an AGN bolometric luminosity of ~3x10^(43) ergs/s/cm-2.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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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.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015
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    Philippe Peille · Didier Barret · Phil Uttley
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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.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015
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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.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · Space Science Reviews
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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 GX339−4, CygX-1 and GRS 1915+105.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
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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 750 d 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 time-scales (tens of days). The UV/optical bands lag the X-ray band with lags which are proportional to wavelength raised to the power 1.23 ± 0.31. This power is very close to the power (4/3) expected if short time-scale 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.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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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.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Astronomy and Astrophysics Review
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    L. M. Heil · P. Uttley · M. Klein-Wolt
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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.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014
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    L. M. Heil · P. Uttley · M. Klein-Wolt
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    ABSTRACT: We use a simple one-dimensional parametrization 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 broad-band noise (with low-frequency quasi-periodic oscillations, QPOs, removed) are 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. This suggests either a change in the coronal geometry and possible evidence for contribution from jet emission, or alternatively an even more optically thin flow in these states.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
  • L. M. Heil · P. Uttley · M. Klein-Wolt
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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.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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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.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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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]
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2014 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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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.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · The European Physical Journal Conferences

Publication Stats

4k Citations
620.33 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