Volume 538, February 2012
|Number of page(s)
|10 February 2012
Photocentric variability of quasars caused by variations in their inner structure: consequences for Gaia measurements
1 Group for Astrophysical Spectroscopy, Astronomical Observatory, Volgina 7, 11060 Belgrade 74, Serbia
2 Isaac Newton Institute of Chile, Yugoslavia Branch, Serbia
3 CICGE, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Portugal
4 SIM, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
5 Observatório Nacional/MCT, R. Gal. José Cristino 77, CEP 20921-400 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6 Osservatório Astronomico di Torino/INAF, Strada Osservatório 20, 10025 Pino Torinese, Italy
7 SYRTE/Observatoire de Paris, 61 avenue de l’Observatoire, 75014 Paris, France
8 Obswervatório do Valongo/UFRJ, Ladeira Pedro António 43, 20080-090 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
9 Sterrenkundig Observatorium, Universiteit Gent, Krijgslaan 281-S9, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Received: 12 May 2011
Accepted: 15 September 2011
Context. We study the photocenter position variability caused by variations in the quasar inner structure. We consider the variability in the accretion disk emissivity and torus structure variability caused by the different illumination by the central source. We discuss the possible detection of these effects by Gaia. Observations of the photocenter variability in two AGNs, SDSS J121855+020002 and SDSS J162011+1724327 have been reported and discussed.
Aims. For variations in the quasar inner structure, we explore how much this effect can affect the position determination and whether it can (or not) be detected with the Gaia mission.
Methods. We use models of (a) a relativistic disk, including the perturbation that can increase the brightness of part of the disk, and consequently offset the photocenter position, and (b) a dusty torus that absorbs and re-emits the incoming radiation from the accretion disk (central continuum source). We estimate the value of the photocenter offset caused by these two effects.
Results. We found that perturbations in the inner structure can cause a significant offset to the photocenter. This offset depends on the characteristics of both the perturbation and accretion disk and on the structure of the torus. In the case of the two considered QSOs, the observed photocenter offsets cannot be explained by variations in the accretion disk and other effects should be considered. We discuss the possibility of exploding stars very close to the AGN source, and also that there are two variable sources at the center of these two AGNs that may indicate a binary supermassive black hole system on a kpc (pc) scale.
Conclusions. The Gaia mission seems to be very promising, not only for astrometry, but also for exploring the inner structure of AGNs. We conclude that variations in the quasar inner structure can affect the observed photocenter (by up to several mas). There is a chance to observe such an effect in the case of bright and low-redshift QSOs.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / reference systems / quasars: general
© ESO, 2012
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