Thursday, June 20, 2013

1306.4398 (Robert Schaap et al.)

Interstellar scintillation is an indicator of astrometric stability    [PDF]

Robert Schaap, Stanislav Shabala, Simon Ellingsen, Oleg Titov, Jim Lovell
We examine the relationship between astrometric stability and astrophysical properties in flat-spectrum radio-loud quasars making up the celestial reference frame. We use position determinations from geodetic VLBI measurements, and develop a new metric for source position stability. We then compare this quantity to two measures of source compactness: structure index, which probes structure on milliarcsecond scales; and the presence of interstellar scintillation associated with the quasar, which probes scales of tens of microarcseconds. We find that persistent scintillators have greater position stability than episodic scintillators, which are in turn more stable than non-scintillators. Scintillators are also more likely to be compact on milliarcsecond scales, as measured by the structure index. Persistent scintillators are therefore excellent candidates for inclusion in any future realisation of the celestial reference frame. A list of these sources is presented in the Appendix. We find that slow (characteristic timescale >3 days) scintillators have more stable positions than rapid scintillators, suggesting they are more compact. High-cadence, long term monitoring is therefore required to identify other members of this population of compact, high brightness temperature quasars.
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