Publications associated with Four Pi Sky

On the use of variability time-scales as an early classifier of radio transients and variables

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Oxford University Press 471 (2017) 3788–3805-

M Pietka, T Staley, ML Pretorius, R Fender

We have shown previously that a broad correlation between the peak radio luminosity and the variability time-scales, approximately L ∝ τ5, exists for variable synchrotron emitting sources and that different classes of astrophysical sources occupy different regions of luminosity and time-scale space. Based on those results, we investigate whether the most basic information available for a newly discovered radio variable or transient – their rise and/or decline rate – can be used to set initial constraints on the class of events from which they originate. We have analysed a sample of ≈800 synchrotron flares, selected from light curves of ≈90 sources observed at 5–8 GHz, representing a wide range of astrophysical phenomena, from flare stars to supermassive black holes. Selection of outbursts from the noisy radio light curves has been done automatically in order to ensure reproducibility of results. The distribution of rise/decline rates for the selected flares is modelled as a Gaussian probability distribution for each class of object, and further convolved with estimated areal density of that class in order to correct for the strong bias in our sample. We show in this way that comparing the measured variability time-scale of a radio transient/variable of unknown origin can provide an early, albeit approximate, classification of the object, and could form part of a suite of measurements used to provide early categorization of such events. Finally, we also discuss the effect scintillating sources will have on our ability to classify events based on their variability time-scales.

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