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The Relationship Between the Radio and Gamma-Ray Emission of Blazars


Max-Moerbeck Astudillo, Walter Kennerth (2013) The Relationship Between the Radio and Gamma-Ray Emission of Blazars. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/ZX5X-V114.


Blazars are active galaxies with a jet closely oriented to our line of sight. They are powerful, variable emitters from radio to gamma-ray wavelengths. Although the general picture of synchrotron emission at low energies and inverse Compton at high energies is well established, important aspects of blazars are not well understood. In particular, the location of the gamma-ray emission region is not clearly established, with some theories favoring a location close to the central engine, while others place it at parsec scales in the radio jet.

We developed a program to locate the gamma-ray emission site in blazars, through the study of correlated variations between their gamma-ray and radio-wave emission. Correlated variations are expected when there is a relation between emission processes at both bands, while delays tell us about the relative location of their energy generation zones. Monitoring at 15 GHz using the Owens Valley Radio Observatory 40 meter telescope started in mid-2007. The program monitors 1593 blazars twice per week, including all blazars detected by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi) north of -20 degrees declination. This program complements the continuous monitoring of gamma-rays by Fermi.

Three year long gamma-ray light curves for bright Fermi blazars are cross-correlated with four years of radio monitoring. The significance of cross-correlation peaks is investigated using simulations that account for the uneven sampling and noise properties of the light curves, which are modeled as red-noise processes with a simple power-law power spectral density. We found that out of 86 sources with high quality data, only three show significant correlations (AO 0235+164, B2 2308+34 and PKS 1502+106). Additionally, we find a significant correlation for Mrk 421 when including the strong gamma-ray/radio flare of late 2012. In all four cases radio variations lag gamma-ray variations, suggesting that the gamma-ray emission originates upstream of the radio emission. For PKS 1502+106 we locate the gamma-ray emission site parsecs away from the central engine, thus disfavoring the model of Blandford and Levinson (1995), while other cases are inconclusive. These findings show that continuous monitoring over long time periods is required to understand the cross-correlation between gamma-ray and radio-wave variability in most blazars.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:active galactic nuclei, blazars, radio astronomy, gamma-ray astronomy, variability, time series analysis
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Astrophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Readhead, Anthony C. S.
Group:Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO), Astronomy Department
Thesis Committee:
  • Cohen, Judith G. (chair)
  • Readhead, Anthony C. S.
  • Kulkarni, Shrinivas R.
  • Hirata, Christopher M.
  • Djorgovski, George
Defense Date:31 January 2013
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05302013-225100503
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7784
Deposited By: Walter Max-Moerbeck Astudillo
Deposited On:28 Aug 2014 17:05
Last Modified:26 Oct 2021 17:33

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