Simulating the timescale dependent color variation in quasars with a revised inhomogeneous disk model

10 May 2016  ·  Cai Zhen-Yi USTC, Wang Jun-Xian USTC, Gu Wei-Min XMU, Sun Yu-Han USTC, Wu Mao-Chun USTC, Huang Xing-Xing USTC, Chen Xiao-Yang USTC ·

The UV/optical variability of active galactic nuclei and quasars is useful for understanding the physics of the accretion disk and is gradually attributed to the stochastic fluctuations over the accretion disk. Quasars generally appear bluer when they brighten in the UV/optical, the nature of which remains controversial... Recently \citeauthor{Sun2014} discovered that the color variation of quasars is timescale dependent, in the way that faster variations are even bluer than longer term ones. While this discovery can directly rule out models that simply attribute the color variation to contamination from the host galaxies, or to changes in the global accretion rates, it favors the stochastic disk fluctuation model as fluctuations in the innermost hotter disk could dominate the short-term variations. In this work, we show that a revised inhomogeneous disk model, where the characteristic timescales of thermal fluctuations in the disk are radius-dependent (i.e., $\tau \sim r$; based on the one originally proposed by \citeauthor{DexterAgol2011}), can well reproduce a timescale dependent color variation pattern, similar to the observed one and unaffected by the un-even sampling and photometric error. This demonstrates that one may statistically use variation emission at different timescales to spatially resolve the accretion disk in quasars, thus opens a new window to probe and test the accretion disk physics in the era of time domain astronomy. Caveats of the current model, which ought to be addressed in future simulations, are discussed. read more

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Astrophysics of Galaxies Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics