During an intensive Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) UV monitoring campaign of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 performed from 2014 February to July, the normally highly correlated far UV continuum and broad emission line variations decorrelated for ~60–70 days, starting ~75 days after the first HST/COS observation. Following this anomalous state, the flux and variability of the broad emission lines returned to a more normal state. This transient behavior, characterized by significant deficits in flux and equivalent width of the strong broad UV emission lines, is the first of its kind to be unambiguously identified in an active galactic nucleus reverberation mapping campaign. The largest corresponding emission line flux deficits occurred for the high ionization, collisionally excited lines C iv and Si IV(+O IV]), and also He II(+O III]), while the anomaly in Lyα was substantially smaller. This pattern of behavior indicates a depletion in the flux of photons with Eph > 54 eV relative to those near 13.6 eV. We suggest two plausible mechanisms for the observed behavior: (i) temporary obscuration of the ionizing continuum incident upon broad line region (BLR) clouds by a moving veil of material lying between the inner accretion disk and inner (BLR), perhaps resulting from an episodic ejection of material from the disk, or (ii) a temporary change in the intrinsic ionizing continuum spectral energy distribution resulting in a deficit of ionizing photons with energies > 54 eV, possibly due to a transient restructuring of the Comptonizing atmosphere above the disk. Current evidence appears to favor the latter explanation.

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Published in The Astrophysical Journal, v. 824, no. 1, 11, p. 1-10.

© 2016. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

Due to the large number of authors, only the first 30 and the authors affiliated with the University of Kentucky are listed in the author section above. For the complete list of authors, please download this article.

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Support for HST program number GO-13330 was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS5-26555. M.M.F., G.D.R., B.M.P., C.J.G., and R.W.P. are grateful for the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) through grant AST-1008882 to The Ohio State University. A.J.B. and L.P. have been supported by NSF grant AST-1412693. A.V.F. and W.-K.Z. are grateful for financial assistance from NSF grant AST-1211916, the TABASGO Foundation, and the Christopher R. Redlich Fund. M.C. Bentz gratefully acknowledges support through NSF CAREER grant AST-1253702 to Georgia State University. M.C. Bottorff acknowledges HHMI for support through an undergraduate science education grant to Southwestern University. K.D.D. is supported by an NSF Fellowship awarded under grant AST-1302093. R.E. gratefully acknowledges support from NASA under awards NNX13AC26G, NNX13AC63G, and NNX13AE99G. J.M.G. gratefully acknowledges support from NASA under award NNH13CH61C. P.B.H. is supported by NSERC. K.D.H. acknowledges support from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council through grant ST/J001651/1. M.I. acknowledges support from the Creative Initiative program, No. 2008-0060544, of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRFK) funded by the Korean government (MSIP). M.D.J. acknowledges NSF grant AST0618209. S.R.O.N. is financially supported by NWO, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. B.C.K. is partially supported by the UC Center for Galaxy Evolution. C.S.K. acknowledges the support of NSF grant AST-1009756. D.C.L. acknowledges support from NSF grants AST-1009571 and AST-1210311. P.L. acknowledges support from Fondecyt grant #1120328. A.P. acknowledges support from an NSF graduate fellowship and a UCSB Dean's Fellowship. J.S.S. acknowledges CNPq, National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Brazil) for partial support and The Ohio State University for warm hospitality. T.T. has been supported by NSF grant AST-1412315. T.T. and B.C.K. acknowledge support from the Packard Foundation in the form of a Packard Research Fellowship to T.T; also, T.T. thanks the American Academy in Rome and the Observatory of Monteporzio Catone for kind hospitality. The Dark Cosmology Centre is funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. M.V. gratefully acknowledges support from the Danish Council for Independent Research via grant No. DFF4002-00275. J.-H.W. acknowledges support by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korean government (No. 2010-0027910). This research has made use of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), which is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with NASA.

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