EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 478, Number 3, February II 2008
Page(s) 755 - 762
Section Extragalactic astronomy
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078378

A&A 478, 755-762 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078378

Ground-based variability surveys towards Centaurus A: worthwhile or not?

J. T. A. de Jong1, 2, K. H. Kuijken3, 2, and P. Héraudeau4, 2

1  Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
    e-mail: dejong@mpia.de
2  Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, PO Box 800, 9700 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands
3  Sterrewacht Leiden, University of Leiden, PO Box 9513, 2300 RA, Leiden, The Netherlands
4  Argelander Institut für Astronomie, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany

(Received 30 July 2007 / Accepted 28 November 2007)

Context.Difference imaging has proven to be a powerful technique for detecting and monitoring the variability of unresolved stellar sources in M 31. Using this technique in surveys of galaxies outside the Local Group could have many interesting applications.
Aims.The goal of this paper is to test difference imaging photometry on Centaurus A, the nearest giant elliptical galaxy, at a distance of 4 Mpc.
Methods.We obtained deep photometric data with the Wide Field Imager at the ESO/MPG 2.2 m at La Silla spread over almost two months. Applying the difference imaging photometry package DIFIMPHOT, we produced high-quality difference images and detected variable sources. The sensitivity of the current observational setup was determined through artificial residual tests.
Results.In the resulting high-quality difference images, we detect 271 variable stars. We find a difference flux detection limit corresponding to mR $\simeq$ 24.5. Based on a simple model of the halo of Centaurus A, we estimate that a ground-based microlensing survey would detect in the order of 4 microlensing events per year due to lenses in the halo.
Conclusions.Difference imaging photometry works very well at the distance of Centaurus A and promises to be a useful tool for detecting and studying variable stars in galaxies outside the local group. For microlensing surveys, a higher sensitivity is needed than achieved here, which would be possible with a large ground-based telescope or space observatory with wide-field imaging capabilities.

Key words: galaxies: individual: Centaurus A -- galaxies: stellar content -- stars: variables: general -- gravitational lensing

© ESO 2008