The properties and evolution of the highly ionized gas in MR 2251-178

Shai Kaspi, Hagai Netzer, Doron Chelouche, Ian M. George, Kirpal Nandra, T. J. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present the first XMM-Newton observations of the radio-quiet quasar MR 2251-178 obtained in 2000 and 2002. The EPIC pn spectra show a power-law continuum with a slope of Γ = 1.6 at high energies absorbed by at least two warm absorbers (WAs) intrinsic to the source. The underlying continuum in the earlier observation shows a "soft excess" at low X-ray energies, which can be modeled as an additional power law with Γ = 2.9. The spectra also show a weak narrow iron Kα emission line. The high-resolution grating spectrum obtained in 2002 shows emission lines from N VI, O VII, O VIII, Ne IX, and Ne X, as well as absorption lines from the low-ionization ions of O III, O IV, and O V, and other confirmed and suspected weaker absorption lines. The O III-O V lines are consistent with the properties of the emission-line gas observed as extended optical [O III] emission in this source. The signal-to-noise ratio of the 2000 grating data is too low to detect any lines. We suggest a model for the high-resolution spectrum that consists of two or three WA components. The two-component model has a high-ionization WA with a column density of 1021.5-1021.8 cm-2 and a low-ionization absorber with a column density of 1020.3 cm -2. In the three-component model we add a lower ionization component that produces the observed iron M shell absorption lines. We investigate the spectral variations in MR 2251-178 over a period of 8.5 yr using data from ASCA, BeppoSAX, and XMM-Newton. All X-ray observations can be fitted with the above two power laws and the two absorbers. The observed luminosity variations seem to correlate with variations in the soft X-ray continuum. The 8.5 yr history of the source suggests a changing X-ray absorber due to material that enters and disappears from the line of sight on timescales of several months. We also present, for the first time, the entire Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) spectrum of MR 2251-178. We detect emission from N III, C III, and O VI and at least four absorption systems in C III, H I, and O VI, one at -580 km s-1 and at least three others that are blended together and form a wide trough covering the velocity range of 0 to -500 km s-1. The general characteristics of the UV and X-ray absorbers are consistent with an origin in the same gas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-80
Number of pages13
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Quasars: individual (MR 2251-178)
  • Techniques: spectroscopic
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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