Correlated variability in the blazar 3C 454.3

Research paper by E. W. Bonning, C. Bailyn, C. M. Urry, M. Buxton, G. Fossati, L. Maraschi, P. Coppi, R. Scalzo, J. Isler, A. Kaptur

Indexed on: 30 Dec '08Published on: 30 Dec '08Published in: Astrophysics


The blazar 3C 454.3 was revealed by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope to be in an exceptionally high flux state in July 2008. Accordingly, we performed a multi-wavelength monitoring campaign on this blazar using IR and optical observations from the SMARTS telescopes, optical, UV and X-ray data from the Swift satellite, and public-release gamma-ray data from Fermi. We find an excellent correlation between the IR, optical, UV and gamma-ray light curves, with a time lag of less than one day. The amplitude of the infrared variability is comparable to that in gamma-rays, and larger than at optical or UV wavelengths. The X-ray flux is not strongly correlated with either the gamma-rays or longer wavelength data. These variability characteristics find a natural explanation in the external Compton model, in which electrons with Lorentz factor gamma~10^(3-4) radiate synchrotron emission in the infrared-optical and also scatter accretion disk or emission line photons to gamma-ray energies, while much cooler electrons (gamma~10^(1-2)) produce X-rays by scattering synchrotron or other ambient photons.