The large quasar reference frame (LQRF)*
An optical representation of the ICRS
Observatório Nacional/MCT, R. Gal. José Cristino 77, CEP20921-400, RJ, Brasil e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Observatório do Valongo/UFRJ, Ladeira Pedro Antônio 43, CEP20080-090, RJ, Brasil
3 Observatoire de Paris/SYRTE, 61 Avenue de l'Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
4 US Naval Observatory, 3450 Massachusetts Av. NW, Washington, DC 20392, USA
5 INAF/Osservatório Astronomico di Torino, Strada Osservatório 20, 10025 Pino Torinese, Italy
6 Centro Universitário Estadual da Zona Oeste, Av. Manuel Caldeira de Alvarenga 1203, CEP23070-200, RJ, Brasil
Accepted: 20 May 2009
Context. The large number and all-sky distribution of quasars from different surveys, along with their presence in large, deep astrometric catalogs, enables us to build of an optical materialization of the International Celestial Reference System (ICRS) following its defining principles. Namely: that it is kinematically non-rotating with respect to the ensemble of distant extragalactic objects; aligned with the mean equator and dynamical equinox of J2000; and realized by a list of adopted coordinates of extragalatic sources.
Aims. The Large Quasar Reference Frame (LQRF) was built with the care of avoiding incorrect matches of its constituents quasars, homogenizing the astrometry from the different catalogs and lists in which the constituent quasars are gathered, and attaining a milli-arcsec global alignment with the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF), as well as typical individual source position accuracies higher than 100 milli-arcsec.
Methods. Starting from the updated and presumably complete Large Quasar Astrometric Catalog (LQAC) list of QSOs, the initial optical positions of those quasars are found in the USNO B1.0 and GSC2.3 catalogs, and from the SDSS Data Release 5. The initial positions are next placed onto UCAC2-based reference frames, This is followed by an alignment with the ICRF, to which were added the most precise sources from the VLBA calibrator list and the VLA calibrator list – when reliable optical counterparts exist. Finally, the LQRF axes are inspected through spherical harmonics, to define right ascension, declination and magnitude terms.
Results. The LQRF contains 100,165 quasars, well represented accross the sky, from -83.5 to +88.5° in declination, being 10 arcmin the average distance between adjacent elements. The global alignment with the ICRF is 1.5 mas, and the individual position accuracies are represented by a Poisson distribution that peaks at 139 mas in right ascension and 130 mas in declination. As a by-product, significant equatorial corrections are found for all the catalogs used (apart from the SDSS DR5), an empirical magnitude correction can be discussed for the GSC2.3 intermediate and faint regimes, both the 2MASS and the preliminary northernmost UCAC2 positions are shown of astrometry consistent with the UCAC2 main catalog, and the harmonic terms are found to be always small.
Conclusions. The LQRF contains J2000 referred equatorial coordinates, and is complemented by redshift and photometry information from the LQAC. It is designed to be an astrometric frame, but it is also the basis for the GAIA mission initial quasars' list, and can be used as a test bench for quasars' space distribution and luminosity function studies. The LQRF is meant to be updated when new quasar identifications and newer versions of the astrometric frames used are realized. In the later case, it can itself be used to examine the relations between those frames.
Key words: catalogs / reference systems / quasars: general / methods: data analysis / astrometry
© ESO, 2009