Solving the puzzle of discrepant quasar variability on monthly time-scales implied by SDSS and CRTS data sets [GA]

We present an improved photometric error analysis for the 7,100 CRTS (Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey) optical light curves for quasars from the SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey) Stripe 82 catalogue. The SDSS imaging survey has provided a time-resolved photometric data set which greatly improved our understanding of the quasar optical continuum variability: Data for monthly and longer time-scales are consistent with a damped random walk (DRW). Recently, newer data obtained by CRTS provided puzzling evidence for enhanced variability, compared to SDSS results, on monthly time-scales. Quantitatively, SDSS results predict about 0.06 mag root-mean-square (rms) variability for monthly time-scales, while CRTS data show about a factor of 2 larger rms, for spectroscopically confirmed SDSS quasars. Our analysis has successfully resolved this discrepancy as due to slightly underestimated photometric uncertainties from the CRTS image processing pipelines. As a result, the correction for observational noise is too small and the implied quasar variability is too large. The CRTS photometric error correction factors, derived from detailed analysis of non-variable SDSS standard stars that were re-observed by CRTS, are about 20-30%, and result in reconciling quasar variability behaviour implied by the CRTS data with earlier SDSS results. An additional analysis based on independent light curve data for the same objects obtained by the Palomar Transient Factory provides further support for this conclusion. In summary, the quasar variability constraints on weekly and monthly time-scales from SDSS, CRTS and PTF surveys are mutually compatible, as well as consistent with DRW model.

Read this paper on arXiv…

K. Suberlak, Z. Ivezic, C. MacLeod, et. al.
Thu, 7 Dec 17

Comments: 9 pages, 8 figures, published in MNRAS this https URL