March 20, 2019

22.01.11: A Quasar Campaign.

A call recently went out from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) that we thought was worth passing along. Specifically, Alert Notice 430 is calling for well-equipped and skilled observers to monitor to two exotic objects: Blazar-type quasars 3C 273 and 3C 279. If 3C 273 is sounding familiar, that’s because it was one of our astronomy challenges last year; at around magnitude +12.7, 3C 273 was the first quasar identified as such and is one of the brightest quasars in the sky.

Dr. Kirill Sokolovsky of the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy has called for a cross spectrum analysis of these two objects to better characterize them. Observations will be conducted from the gamma-ray to the radio end of the spectrum, using a variety of instruments including the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). Blazar-style quasars are still very poorly understood, and researchers hope to better define their relativistic jets at sub-parsec resolutions by finding relationships between their spectral energy distributions.

That’s were you, the eager amateur, comes in. To be effective, researchers are looking for multicolor observations at least once per week with a signal to noise ratio of at least 50 to 1. Priority is being given to observations in the visible (500-700nm) and red (550-800nm) bands, and this ties in with the AAVSO’s ongoing observing campaign. In fact, dedicated observers have measured the redshift of these objects for themselves! Mention that the next time someone challenges the Big Bang model of the universe… both objects are located in the constellation Virgo and currently rise after midnight local. Good luck, and let the Blazar-Quasar photometry begin!

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