Evidence for Gravitational Infall of Matter onto the Supermasive Black Hole in the Quasar PG

We report the detection of redshifted iron Kα absorption lines in the Chandra LETG spectrum of the narrow-line quasar PG 1211+143. The absorption lines are observed at 4.22 and 4.93 keV in the quasar spectrum, corresponding to 4.56 and 5.33 keV in the rest frame of PG 1211+143. From Monte Carlo simulations, the chance probability of both lines being false detections is low at 1.36 × 10-4. Highly redshifted ionized iron Kα (Fe XXV or Fe XXVI) is the most plausible identification for the lines at their observed energies. If identified with H-like iron Kα at 6.97 keV, then the relativistic velocity shifts required are 0.40c and 0.26c. The extreme velocities can be explained by pure gravitational redshift if the matter exists in a stable orbit within 6 gravitational radii of the black hole. This would require a Kerr metric for the black hole. Alternatively, the absorption may be the result of matter infalling directly onto the black hole, with a maximum observed velocity of 0.38c at 6Rg in the Schwarzschild metric. This matter may originate in a failed outflow or jet, which does not escape the gravitational potential of the black hole.

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