Quasar optical variability: searching for interband time delays
Institute of Astronomy, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 72 Tsarigradsko Chausse Blvd., 1784 Sofia, Bulgaria e-mail: email@example.com
Accepted: 28 November 2008
Aims. The main purpose of this paper is to study time delays between the light variations in different wavebands for a sample of quasars. Measuring a reliable time delay for a large number of quasars may help constraint the models of their central engines. The standard accretion disk irradiation model predicts a delay of the longer wavelengths behind the shorter ones, a delay that depends on the fundamental quasar parameters. Since the black hole masses and the accretion rates are approximately known for the sample we use, one can compare the observed time delays with the expected ones.
Methods. We applied the interpolation cross-correlation function (ICCF) method to the Giveon et al. sample of 42 quasars, monitored in two (B and R) colors, to find the time lags represented by the ICCF peaks. Different tests were performed to assess the influence of photometric errors, sampling, etc., on the final result.
Results. We found that most of the objects show a delay in the red light curve behind the blue one (a positive lag), which on average for the sample is about +4 days (+3 for the median), although the scatter is significant. These results are broadly consistent with the reprocessing model, especially for the well-sampled objects. The normalized time-lag deviations do not seem to correlate significantly with other quasar properties, including optical, radio, or X-ray measurables. On the other hand, many objects show a clear negative lag, which, if real, may have important consequences for the variability models.
Key words: galaxies: quasars: general / accretion, accretion disks
© ESO, 2009