On the Putative Detection of z > 0 X-Ray Absorption Features in the Spectrum of Mrk 421

A.P. Rasmussen, S.M. Kahn, F. Paerels, J.W.A. den Herder, J.S. Kaastra, C.P. de Vries

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In a series of papers, Nicastro et al. have reported the detection of z > 0 O VII absorption features in the spectrum of Mrk 421 obtained with the Chandra Low Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (LETGS). We evaluate this result in the context of a high-quality spectrum of the same source obtained with the Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) on XMM-Newton. The data comprise over 955 ks of usable exposure time and more than 2.6 × 104 counts per 50 mÅ at 21.6 Å. We concentrate on the spectrally clean region (21.3 <λ <22.5 ), where sharp features due to the astrophysically abundant O VII may reveal an intervening, warm-hot intergalactic medium (WHIM). We do not confirm detection of any of the intervening systems claimed to date. Rather, we detect only three unsurprising, astrophysically expected features down to the log(Ni) ~ 14.6 (3 σ) sensitivity level. Each of the two purported WHIM features is rejected with a statistical confidence that exceeds that reported for its initial detection. While we cannot rule out the existence of fainter, WHIM related features in these spectra, we suggest that previous discovery claims were premature. A more recent paper by Williams et al. claims to have demonstrated that the RGS data we analyze here do not have the resolution or statistical quality required to confirm or deny the LETGS detections. We show that our analysis resolves the issues encountered by Williams et al. and recovers the full resolution and statistical quality of the RGS data. We highlight the differences between our analysis and those published by Williams et al. as this may explain our disparate conclusions.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)129-138
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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