Volume 641, September 2020
|Number of page(s)||11|
|Section||Letters to the Editor|
|Published online||01 September 2020|
Letter to the Editor
Extreme intra-hour variability of the radio source J1402+5347 discovered with Apertif⋆
ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4, 7991 PD Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
2 Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, Postbus 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands
3 Astro Space Center of Lebedev Physical Institute, Profsoyuznaya Str. 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia
4 Astronomisches Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum (AIRUB), Universitätsstrasse 150, 44780 Bochum, Germany
5 Department of Astronomy, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
6 Department of Physics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 50 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
7 Anton Pannekoek Institute, University of Amsterdam, Postbus 94249, 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
8 CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Australia Telescope National Facility, PO Box 76, Epping, NSW 1710, Australia
9 Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
10 Tricas Industrial Design & Engineering, Hanzelaan 95b, 8017 JE Zwolle, The Netherlands
11 Center for Information Technology, University of Groningen, Postbus 11044, 9700 CA Groningen, The Netherlands
Accepted: 17 August 2020
The propagation of radio waves from distant compact radio sources through turbulent interstellar plasma in our Galaxy causes these sources to twinkle, a phenomenon called interstellar scintillation. Such scintillations are a unique probe of the micro-arcsecond structure of radio sources as well as of the sub-AU-scale structure of the Galactic interstellar medium. Weak scintillations (i.e. an intensity modulation of a few percent) on timescales of a few days or longer are commonly seen at centimetre wavelengths and are thought to result from the line-of-sight integrated turbulence in the interstellar plasma of the Milky Way. So far, only three sources were known that show more extreme variations, with modulations at the level of some dozen percent on timescales shorter than an hour. This requires propagation through nearby (d ≲ 10 pc) anomalously dense (ne ∼ 102 cm−3) plasma clouds. Here we report the discovery with Apertif of a source (J1402+5347) showing extreme (∼50%) and rapid variations on a timescale of just 6.5 min in the decimetre band (1.4 GHz). The spatial scintillation pattern is highly anisotropic, with a semi-minor axis of about 20 000 km. The canonical theory of refractive scintillation constrains the scattering plasma to be within the Oort cloud. The sightline to J1402+5347, however, passes unusually close to the B3 star Alkaid (η UMa) at a distance of 32 pc. If the scintillations are associated with Alkaid, then the angular size of J1402+5347 along the minor axis of the scintels must be smaller than ≈10 μas, yielding an apparent brightness temperature for an isotropic source of ≳1014 K.
Key words: scattering / ISM: clouds
Light curves are only available at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr (22.214.171.124) or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/cat/J/A+A/641/L4
© ESO 2020
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