Quasars can be used to verify the parallax zero-point of the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution
Lund Observatory, Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics, Lund University, Box 43, 22100 Lund, Sweden
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Received: 24 September 2015
Accepted: 25 October 2015
Context. The Gaia project will determine positions, proper motions, and parallaxes for more than one billion stars in our Galaxy. It is known that Gaia’s two telescopes are affected by a small but significant variation of the basic angle between them. Unless this variation is taken into account during data processing, e.g. using on-board metrology, it causes systematic errors in the astrometric parameters, in particular a shift in the parallax zero-point. Previously, we suggested an early reduction of Gaia data for the subset of Tycho-2 stars (Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution; TGAS).
Aims. We investigate whether quasars can be used to independently verify the parallax zero-point in early data reductions. This is not trivially possible as the observation interval is too short to disentangle parallax and proper motion for the quasar subset.
Methods. We repeat TGAS simulations but additionally include simulated Gaia observations of quasars from ground-based surveys. All observations are simulated with basic angle variations. To obtain a full astrometric solution for the quasars in TGAS we explore the use of prior information for their proper motions.
Results. It is possible to determine the parallax zero-point for the quasars with a few μas uncertainty, and it agrees to a similar precision with the zero-point for the Tycho-2 stars. The proposed strategy is robust even for quasars exhibiting significant spurious proper motion due to a variable source structure, or when the quasar subset is contaminated with stars misidentified as quasars.
Conclusions. Using prior information about quasar proper motions we could provide an independent verification of the parallax zero-point in early solutions based on less than one year of Gaia data.
Key words: astrometry / methods: data analysis / parallaxes / proper motions / quasars: general / space vehicles: instruments
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