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Optical variability of quasars with 20-yr photometric light curves

Abstract : We study the optical gri photometric variability of a sample of 190 quasars within the SDSS Stripe 82 region that have long-term photometric coverage during ~1998-2020 with SDSS, PanSTARRS-1, the Dark Energy Survey, and dedicated follow-up monitoring with Blanco 4m/DECam. With on average ~200 nightly epochs per quasar per filter band, we improve the parameter constraints from a Damped Random Walk (DRW) model fit to the light curves over previous studies with 10-15 yr baselines and ≲ 100 epochs. We find that the average damping time-scale τDRW continues to rise with increased baseline, reaching a median value of ~750 d (g band) in the rest frame of these quasars using the 20-yr light curves. Some quasars may have gradual, long-term trends in their light curves, suggesting that either the DRW fit requires very long baselines to converge, or that the underlying variability is more complex than a single DRW process for these quasars. Using a subset of quasars with better-constrained τDRW (less than 20 per cent of the baseline), we confirm a weak wavelength dependence of τDRW∝λ0.51 ± 0.20. We further quantify optical variability of these quasars over days to decades time-scales using structure function (SF) and power spectrum density (PSD) analyses. The SF and PSD measurements qualitatively confirm the measured (hundreds of days) damping time-scales from the DRW fits. However, the ensemble PSD is steeper than that of a DRW on time-scales less than ~ a month for these luminous quasars, and this second break point correlates with the longer DRW damping time-scale.
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https://hal-insu.archives-ouvertes.fr/insu-03748242
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Submitted on : Tuesday, August 9, 2022 - 12:15:52 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, November 24, 2022 - 5:02:58 PM

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Zachary Stone, Yue Shen, Colin J. Burke, Yu-Ching Chen, Qian Yang, et al.. Optical variability of quasars with 20-yr photometric light curves. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2022, 514, pp.164-184. ⟨10.1093/mnras/stac1259⟩. ⟨insu-03748242⟩

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