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SDSS J075101.42+291419.1: A Super-Eddington Accreting Quasar with Extreme X-Ray Variability

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Astrophysical Journal





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We report the discovery of extreme X-ray variability in a type 1 quasar: SDSS J075101.42+291419.1. It has a black hole (BH) mass of 1.6 × 107 M o measured from reverberation mapping, and the BH is accreting with a super-Eddington accretion rate. Its XMM-Newton observation in 2015 May reveals a flux drop by a factor of ∼22 with respect to the Swift observation in 2013 May when it showed a typical level of X-ray emission relative to its UV/optical emission. The lack of correlated UV variability results in a steep X-ray-to-optical power-law slope (α OX) of-1.97 in the low X-ray flux state, corresponding to an X-ray weakness factor of 36.2 at rest-frame 2 keV relative to its UV/optical luminosity. The mild UV/optical continuum and emission-line variability also suggest that the accretion rate did not change significantly. A single power-law model modified by Galactic absorption describes the 0.3-10 keV spectra of the X-ray observations well in general. The spectral fitting reveals steep spectral shapes with Γ ≈ 3. We search for active galactic nuclei (AGNs) with such extreme X-ray variability in the literature and find that most of them are narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxies and quasars with high accretion rates. The fraction of extremely X-ray variable objects among super-Eddington accreting AGNs is estimated to be ≈15%-24%. We discuss two possible scenarios, disk reflection and partial covering absorption, to explain the extreme X-ray variability of SDSS J075101.42+291419.1. We propose a possible origin for the partial covering absorber, which is the thick inner accretion disk and its associated outflow in AGNs with high accretion rates.

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