EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 493, Number 1, January I 2009
Page(s) 317 - 323
Section Celestial mechanics and astrometry
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:200810582
Published online 06 November 2008

A&A 493, 317-323 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:200810582

On radio source selection to define a stable celestial frame

S. B. Lambert and A.-M. Gontier

Observatoire de Paris, Département Systèmes de Référence Temps Espace (SYRTE), CNRS/UMR8630, 75014 Paris, France
    e-mail: [sebastien.lambert;anne-marie.gontier]@obspm.fr

Received 12 July 2008 / Accepted 7 October 2008

Context. The most accurate realization of a quasi inertial reference frame, the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF), is made of 212 defining extragalactic radio sources whose coordinates are determined using VLBI observations. Recent studies demonstrated however that using other sets of sources could improve the frame stability.
Aims. This study examines a simple radio source selection scheme to define celestial reference frame axes more stable than the ones as currently defined by the ICRF.
Methods. After having derived source coordinate time series from 26 years of VLBI observations, we select the most suitable sources on the basis of their positional variability (rms and slope), and observational history. We determine the axis stability of the frame defined by the selection, as well as its suitability for global geodetic VLBI analyses, i.e., determination of Earth orientation parameters and source and station coordinates.
Results. We select four frames made of 196, 200, 262, and 269 sources, respectively, showing a satisfactory sky coverage in both hemispheres. Our selections provide a frame stability improved by up to 40% with respect to the ICRF, and by 20% with respect to the frame as defined by the 247 stable sources of Feissel-Vernier et al. (2006, A&A, 452, 1107). Reanalysis of data with respect to this frame gives astrometric catalogues aligned to the ICRF-Ext.2 within 17 $\mu$as. Effects on the Earth orientation parameter estimates and terrestrial reference frame determination remain marginal.
Conclusions. In view of the generation of the next ICRF, we recommend that such an algorithm be taken into consideration along with other criteria based on individual characteristics of the radio sources.

Key words: reference systems -- Earth

© ESO 2008

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