The classification of flaring states of blazars
Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik, Saupfercheckweg 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany e-mail: email@example.com
2 Dipartimento di Fisica, Universita degli Studi e INFN, 20133 Milano, Italy
3 University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand
4 Stanford Univeristy, W.W. Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory and Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Standford, CA 94305-4085, USA
5 INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico G.S. Vaiana, Piazza Parlamento I, 90134 Palermo, Italy
Accepted: 8 April 2009
Aims. The time evolution of the electromagnetic emission from blazars, in particular high-frequency peaked sources (HBLs), displays irregular activity that has not yet been understood. In this work we report a methodology capable of characterizing the time behavior of these variable objects.
Methods. The maximum likelihood blocks (MLBs) is a model-independent estimator that subdivides the light curve into time blocks, whose length and amplitude are compatible with states of constant emission rate of the observed source. The MLBs yield the statistical significance in the rate variations and strongly suppresses the noise fluctuations in the light curves. We applied the MLBs for the first time on the long term X-ray light curves (RXTE/ASM) of Mkn 421, Mkn 501, 1ES 1959+650, and 1ES 2155-304, more than 10 years of observational data (1996–2007). Using the MLBs interpretation of RXTE/ASM data, the integrated time flux distribution is determined for each single source considered. We identify in these distributions the characteristic level, as well as the flaring states of the blazars.
Results. All the distributions show a significant component at negative flux values, most probably caused by an uncertainty in the background subtraction and by intrinsic fluctuations of RXTE/ASM. This effect concerns in particular short time observations. To quantify the probability that the intrinsic fluctuations give rise to a false identification of a flare, we study a population of very faint sources and their integrated time-flux distribution. We determine duty cycle or fraction of time a source spent in the flaring state of the source Mkn 421, Mkn 501, 1ES 1959+650 and 1ES 2155-304. Moreover, we study the random coincidences between flares and generic sporadic events such as high-energy neutrinos or flares in other wavelengths.
Key words: galaxies: BL Lacertae objects: general / X-rays: bursts / X-rays: general
© ESO, 2009