The long-term centimeter variability of active galactic nuclei: a new relation between variability timescale and accretion rate.
PARK J. and TRIPPE S.
Abstract (from CDS):
We study the long-term (~30 years) radio variability of 43 radio-bright active galactic nuclei (AGNs) by exploiting the database of the University of Michigan Radio Astronomy Observatory monitoring program. We model the periodograms (temporal power spectra) of the observed light curves as simple power-law noise (red noise, spectral power P(f)∝f^-β^) using Monte Carlo simulations, taking into account windowing effects (red-noise leak, aliasing). The power spectra of 39 (out of 43) sources are in good agreement with the models, yielding a range in power spectral index (β) from ≃1 to ≃3. We fit a Gaussian function to each flare in a given light curve to obtain the flare duration. We discover a correlation between β and the median duration of the flares. We use the derivative of a light curve to obtain a characteristic variability timescale, which does not depend on the assumed functional form of the flares, incomplete fitting, and so on. We find that, once the effects of relativistic Doppler boosting are corrected for, the variability timescales of our sources are proportional to the accretion rate to the power of 0.25 ± 0.03 over five orders of magnitude in accretion rate, regardless of source type. We further find that modeling the periodograms of four of our sources requires the assumption of broken power-law spectra. From simulating light curves as superpositions of exponential flares, we conclude that strong overlap of flares leads to featureless simple power-law periodograms of AGNs at radio wavelengths in most cases.