Emission-line regions in active galactic nuclei (AGNs) and other photoionized nebulae should become larger in size when the ionizing luminosity increases. This `breathing' effect is observed for the Hβ emission in NGC 5548 by using Hβ and optical continuum light curves from the 13-yr (1989-2001) AGN Watch monitoring campaign. To model the breathing, we use two methods to fit the observed light curves in detail: (i) parametrized models and, (ii) the MEMECHO reverberation-mapping code. Our models assume that optical continuum variations track the ionizing radiation, and that the Hβ variations respond with time-delays τ due to light travel-time. By fitting the data using a delay-map Ψ(τ, Fc) that is allowed to change with continuum flux Fc, we find that the strength of the Hβ response decreases and the time-delay increases with ionizing luminosity. The parametrized breathing models allow the time-delay and the Hβ flux to depend on the continuum flux so that, τ~Fβc and FHβ~Fαc. Our fits give 0.1 < β < 0.46 and 0.57 < α < 0.66. α is consistent with previous work by Gilbert and Peterson, and Goad, Korista and Knigge. Although we find β to be flatter than previously determined by Peterson et al. using cross-correlation methods, it is closer to the predicted values from recent theoretical work by Korista and Goad.
Cackett, E. M., Horne, K. 2006. Photoionized Hβ emission in NGC 5548: it breathes! MNRAS 365(4), 1180-1190.