Apparent quasar disc sizes in the “bird’s nest” paradigm
1 Tuorla Observatory, University of Turku, Väisäläntie 20, 21500 Piikkiö, Finland
2 Sternberg Astronomical Institute, Moscow State University, Universitetsky pr., 13, 119992 Moscow, Russia
Received: 3 May 2016
Accepted: 29 January 2017
Context. Quasar microlensing effects make it possible to measure the accretion disc sizes around distant supermassive black holes that are still well beyond the spatial resolution of contemporary instrumentation. The sizes measured with this technique appear inconsistent with the standard accretion disc model. Not only are the measured accretion disc sizes larger, but their dependence on wavelength is in most cases completely different from the predictions of the standard model.
Aims. We suggest that these discrepancies may arise not from non-standard accretion disc structure or systematic errors, as it was proposed before, but rather from scattering and reprocession of the radiation of the disc. In particular, the matter falling from the gaseous torus and presumably feeding the accretion disc may at certain distances become ionized and produce an extended halo that is free from colour gradients.
Methods. A simple analytical model is proposed assuming that a geometrically thick translucent inflow acts as a scattering mirror changing the apparent spatial properties of the disc. This inflow may be also identified with the broad line region or its inner parts.
Results. Such a model is able to explain the basic properties of the apparent disc sizes, primarily their large values and their shallow dependence on wavelength. The only condition required is to scatter a significant portion of the luminosity of the disc. This can easily be fulfilled if the scattering inflow has a large geometrical thickness and clumpy structure.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / scattering / gravitational lensing: micro
© ESO, 2017