Temporal correlations between optical and gamma-ray activity in blazars.
COHEN D.P., ROMANI R.W., FILIPPENKO A.V., CENKO S.B., LOTT B., ZHENG W. and LI W.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have been using the 0.76 m Katzman Automatic Imaging Telescope (KAIT) at Lick Observatory to optically monitor a sample of 157 blazars that are bright in gamma-rays being detected with high significance ( ≥ 10σ) in one year by the Large Area Telescope (LAT) on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. We attempt to observe each source on a three-day cadence with KAIT, subject to weather and seasonal visibility. The gamma-ray coverage is essentially continuous. KAIT observations extend over much of the five-year Fermi mission for several objects, and most have >100 optical measurements spanning the last three years. These blazars (flat-spectrum radio quasars and BL Lac objects) exhibit a wide range of flaring behavior. Using the discrete correlation function (DCF), here we search for temporal relationships between optical and gamma-ray light curves in the 40 brightest sources in hopes of placing constraints on blazar acceleration and emission zones. We find strong optical-gamma-ray correlation in many of these sources at time delays of ∼1 to ∼10 days, ranging between -40 and +30 days. A stacked average DCF of the 40 sources verifies this correlation trend, with a peak above 99% significance indicating a characteristic time delay consistent with 0 days. These findings strongly support the widely accepted leptonic models of blazar emission. However, we also find examples of apparently uncorrelated flares (optical flares with no gamma-ray counterpart and gamma-ray flares with no optical counterpart) that challenge simple, one-zone models of blazar emission. Moreover, we find that flat-spectrum radio quasars tend to have gamma-rays leading the optical, while intermediate- and high-synchrotron peak blazars with the most significant peaks have smaller lags/leads. It is clear that long-term monitoring at high cadence is necessary to reveal the underlying physical correlation.
BL Lacertae objects: general - galaxies: active - galaxies: jets - quasars: general