A Wind-based Unification Model for NGC 5548: Spectral Holidays, Nondisk Emission, and Implications for Changing-look Quasars

M. Dehghanian, G. J. Ferland, B. M. Peterson, G. A. Kriss, K. T. Korista, M. Chatzikos, F. Guzmán, N. Arav, G. De Rosa, M. R. Goad, M. Mehdipour, P. A.M. Van Hoof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The 180 day Space Telescope and Optical Reverberation Mapping campaign on NGC 5548 discovered an anomalous period, the broad-line region (BLR) holiday, in which the emission lines decorrelated from the continuum variations. This is important since the correlation between the continuum-flux variations and the emission-line response is the basic assumption for black hole (BH) mass determinations through reverberation mapping. During the BLR holiday the high-ionization intrinsic absorption lines also decorrelated from the continuum as a result of the variable covering factor of the line-of-sight (LOS) obscurer. The emission lines are not confined to the LOS, so this does not explain the BLR holiday. If the LOS obscurer is a disk wind, its streamlines must extend down to the plane of the disk and the base of the wind would lie between the BH and the BLR, forming an equatorial obscurer. This obscurer can be transparent to ionizing radiation, or can be translucent, blocking only parts of the spectral energy distribution, depending on its density. An emission-line holiday is produced if the wind density increases only slightly above its transparent state. Both obscurers are parts of the same wind, so they can have associated behavior in a way that explains both holidays. A very dense wind would block nearly all ionizing radiation, producing a Seyfert 2 and possibly providing a contributor to the changing-look active galactic nucleus phenomenon. Disk winds are very common and we propose that the equatorial obscurers are too, but mostly in a transparent state.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL30
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 10 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


  • galaxies: Seyfert
  • galaxies: active
  • galaxies: individual (NGC 5548)
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • line: formation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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