Thermal emission signatures in non-thermal blazars
Malmrose, Michael Paul
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Blazars, a subclass of active galactic nuclei with powerful relativistic plasma jets, are among the most luminous and violently variable objects in the universe. They emit radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and often change in brightness over the course of hours or days. Different emission mechanisms are necessary in order to explain the observed flux in different frequency ranges. In the ultraviolet-optical- infrared regime these include components that arise from: 1) polarized synchrotron radiation emanating from a powerful parsec-scale jet flowing from near the central accreting black hole, 2) a multi-temperature accretion disk emitting thermal radia- tion, and 3) an optically thick dusty torus located several parsecs from the central engine that absorbs and re-emits, at infrared wavelengths, radiation originating in the accretion disk. The goal of this study is to determine the relative importance of these spectral components in the spectra of blazars. I use data from the Spitzer Space Telescope in order to search for the presence of the dusty torus surrounding four blazars, as well as to determine its luminosity and temperature. In two of the observed sources, 1222+216 and CTA102, I determine that the torus can be modeled as a 1200 K blackbody emitting at nearly 10 46 erg s −1 . Furthermore, I determine the relative variability of the accretion disk of a sample of blazars by using spec- tropolarimetry observations to separate the optical-UV spectrum into a polarized viiicomponent, consisting of radiation described by a power-law F ν ∝ ν −α , and an ac- cretion disk which consists of a thin disk described by the power-law F disk ∝ ν 1/3 plus a hot-spot of variable temperature. The spectra of several blazars are explained by a version of this model in which the thin disk component is held constant, while the blackbody varies on timescales of approximately years resulting with a flux of the blackbody component comparable to the power-law disk component. I find that variations in the emission from the hot-spot occurs approximately within 100 days of γ-ray variations.