Astrometric suitability of optically-bright ICRF sources for the alignment with the future Gaia celestial reference frame*
Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Bordeaux, Université de Bordeaux, CNRS UMR5804, BP 89, 33271 Floirac Cedex, France e-mail: Geraldine.Bourda@obs.u-bordeaux1.fr
Accepted: 1 August 2008
Context. The International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF), currently based on the position of 717 extragalactic radio sources observed by VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry), is the fundamental celestial reference frame adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1997. Within the next 10 years, the European space astrometry mission Gaia, to be launched by 2011, will permit determination of the extragalactic reference frame directly in the visible for the first time. Aligning these two frames with the highest accuracy will therefore be very important in the future for ensuring consistency between the measured radio and optical positions.
Aims. This paper is aimed at evaluating the current astrometric suitability of the individual ICRF radio sources which are considered appropriate for the alignment with the future Gaia frame.
Methods. To this purpose, we cross-identified the ICRF and the optical catalog (Véron-Cetty & Véron, 2006, A&A, 455, 773), in order to identify the optically-bright ICRF sources that will be positioned with the highest accuracy with Gaia. Then we investigated the astrometric suitability of these sources by examining their VLBI brightness distribution.
Results. We identified 243 candidate ICRF sources for the alignment with the Gaia frame (i.e. with an optical counterpart brighter than the apparent magnitude 18), but only 70 of these (i.e. only 10% of the ICRF sources) are found to have the necessary high astrometric quality (i.e. a brightness distribution that is compact enough) for this link. Additionally, it was found that the QSOs (quasi stellar objects) that will have the most accurate positions in the Gaia frame tend to have less-accurate VLBI positions, most probably because of their physical structures.
Conclusions. Altogether, this indicates that identifying other high-quality VLBI radio sources suitable for the alignment with the future Gaia frame is mandatory.
Key words: astrometry / reference systems / quasars: general
© ESO, 2008