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Journal Article

Dust reverberation mapping in distant quasars from Optical and Mid-infrared Imaging Surveys


Varga,  Tamas Norbert
Optical and Interpretative Astronomy, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Yang, Q., Shen, Y., Liu, X., Aguena, M., Annis, J., Avila, S., et al. (2020). Dust reverberation mapping in distant quasars from Optical and Mid-infrared Imaging Surveys. The Astrophysical Journal, 900(1): 58. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aba59b.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-85E4-1
The size of the dust torus in Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) and their high-luminosity counterparts, quasars, can be inferred from the time delay between UV/optical accretion disk continuum variability and the response in the mid-infrared (MIR) torus emission. This dust reverberation mapping (RM) technique has been successfully applied to ∼70 z≲0.3 AGN and quasars. Here we present first results of our dust RM program for distant quasars covered in the SDSS Stripe 82 region combining ∼20-yr ground-based optical light curves with 10-yr MIR light curves from the WISE satellite. We measure a high-fidelity lag between W1-band (3.4 μm) and g band for 587 quasars over 0.3≲z≲2 (⟨z⟩∼0.8) and two orders of magnitude in quasar luminosity. They tightly follow (intrinsic scatter ∼0.17 dex in lag) the IR lag-luminosity relation observed for z<0.3 AGN, revealing a remarkable size-luminosity relation for the dust torus over more than four decades in AGN luminosity, with little dependence on additional quasar properties such as Eddington ratio and variability amplitude. This study motivates further investigations in the utility of dust RM for cosmology, and strongly endorses a compelling science case for the combined 10-yr Vera C. Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (optical) and 5-yr Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope 2μm light curves in a deep survey for low-redshift AGN dust RM with much lower luminosities and shorter, measurable IR lags. The compiled optical and MIR light curves for 7,384 quasars in our parent sample are made public with this work.