Compact objects in active galactic nuclei and X-ray binaries
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In this thesis I study the inner-most regions of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) using the reverberation mapping technique, and neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries in quiescence using X-ray observations. Using the 13-year optical monitoring data for the AGN NGC 5548, the luminosity dependence of the Hβ emitting radius was modelled using a delay map, finding that the radius scales with luminosity as predicted by recent theoretical models. Time-delays between the continuum at different wavelengths in AGN can be used to probe the accretion disc. Here, continuum time-delays in a sample of 14 AGN were used to measure the radial temperature profile of the accretion discs, determine the nuclear extinction, and measure distances to the objects. However, the distances measured correspond to a value for Hubble's constant that is a factor of ~2 lower than the accepted value. The implications of this on the thermal disc reprocessing model are discussed. I present two Chandra observations of the neutron star transient in the globular cluster NGC 6440 in quiescence, where the power-law component to the spectrum is seen to be variable between the observations, suggesting that there is ongoing residual accretion. From a Chandra observation of the globular cluster Terzan 1, I have identifed the likely quiescent counterpart to a transient previously observed in outburst, and discuss the other sources within the cluster. Using Chandra and XMM-Newton monitoring observations of two neutron star transients (KS 1731-260 and MXB 1659-29) in quiescence I have found that the neutron star crusts in both sources have now returned to thermal equilibrium with the core. These observations also indicate that the crusts in both sources may have a high thermal conductivity and that enhanced neutrino emission may be occurring in the core. Finally, the discovery of an X-ray transient with XMM-Newton is presented, and the other sources in this observation discussed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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