Modeling the time variability of SDSS Stripe 82 quasars as a damped random walk

MacLeod, C.L., Ivezićz, Ž., Kochanek, C.S., Kozƚowski, S., Kelly, B., Bullock, E., Kimball, A., Sesar, B., Westman, D., Brooks, K., Gibson, R., Becker, A.C., and de Vries, W.H. (2010) Modeling the time variability of SDSS Stripe 82 quasars as a damped random walk. Astrophysical Journal, 721 (2). pp. 1014-1033.

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We model the time variability of ~9000 spectroscopically confirmed quasars in SDSS Stripe 82 as a damped random walk (DRW). Using 2.7 million photometric measurements collected over 10 yr, we confirm the results of Kelly et al. and Kozłowski et al. that this model can explain quasar light curves at an impressive fidelity level (0.01-0.02 mag). The DRW model provides a simple, fast (O(N) for N data points), and powerful statistical description of quasar light curves by a characteristic timescale (τ) and an asymptotic rms variability on long timescales (SF∞). We searched for correlations between these two variability parameters and physical parameters such as luminosity and black hole mass, and rest-frame wavelength. Our analysis shows SF∞ to increase with decreasing luminosity and rest-frame wavelength as observed previously, and without a correlation with redshift. We find a correlation between SF∞ and black hole mass with a power-law index of 0.18 ± 0.03, independent of the anti-correlation with luminosity. We find that τ increases with increasing wavelength with a power-law index of 0.17, remains nearly constant with redshift and luminosity, and increases with increasing black hole mass with a power-law index of 0.21 ± 0.07. The amplitude of variability is anti-correlated with the Eddington ratio, which suggests a scenario where optical fluctuations are tied to variations in the accretion rate. However, we find an additional dependence on luminosity and/or black hole mass that cannot be explained by the trend with Eddington ratio. The radio-loudest quasars have systematically larger variability amplitudes by about 30%, when corrected for the other observed trends, while the distribution of their characteristic timescale is indistinguishable from that of the full sample. We do not detect any statistically robust differences in the characteristic timescale and variability amplitude between the full sample and the small subsample of quasars detected by ROSAT. Our results provide a simple quantitative framework for generating mock quasar light curves, such as currently used in LSST image simulations.

Item ID: 17336
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1538-4357
Keywords: quasars: general
Date Deposited: 30 May 2011 06:43
FoR Codes: 02 PHYSICAL SCIENCES > 0201 Astronomical and Space Sciences > 020110 Stellar Astronomy and Planetary Systems @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970102 Expanding Knowledge in the Physical Sciences @ 100%
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