Optical monitoring of extragalactic sources for linking the ICRF and the future Gaia celestial reference frame. I. Variability of ICRF sources

Abstract : Context. The astrometric mission Gaia of the European Space Agency is scheduled to be launched in 2013. It will provide an astrometric catalog of 500 000 extragalactic sources that could be the basis of a new optical reference frame after the Hipparcos satellite one. On the other hand, the current International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF) is based on observations of extragalactic sources at radio wavelength. The astrometric coordinates of sources in these two reference systems will have roughly the same uncertainty. It is then mandatory to observe a set of common targets at both optical and radio wavelengths to link the ICRF with what could be called the Gaia Celestial Reference Frame (GCRF). Aims: The goal of this work is to observe a first set of 70 extragalactic sources at optical wavelengths that could achieve the link with the ICRF. Variations in the light curves of these targets are connected with astrophysical processes that could produce displacements of the optical photocenter. Such displacements, if they exist, are critical in the framework of the link of reference systems. Methods: Four telescopes were used to observe the targets at optical wavelengths. Two of them are located in France, one in Chile, and the last one in Australia. First observations were carried out during one year and a half in the R and V bands. A new method of characterizing the compactness of the targets was applied to the images obtained. Results: This paper presents results for the optical monitoring of extragalactic sources suitable for linking reference systems. We show that a large number of targets in our set are variable at the two observational wavelengths. A short presentation of each object is given, along with some references to earlier photometric studies. A morphological index is defined and applied to the 5000 images obtained during the observation campaign. Conclusions: This work fits into a more general project of astrophotometric and astrophysical studies of extragalactic radiosources in the framework of the reference systems. It brings to the astrometric community some information at optical wavelengths about a set of targets that could be used for the link between the radio ICRF and the future GCRF. Table 4 is only available in electronic form at the CDS via anonymous ftp to cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr ( or via http://cdsarc.u-strasbg.fr/viz-bin/qcat?J/A+A/552/A98
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Contributor : Marie-Paule Pomies <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 12:38:30 PM
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F. Taris, A. Andrei, A. Klotz, Frédéric Vachier, R. Côte, et al.. Optical monitoring of extragalactic sources for linking the ICRF and the future Gaia celestial reference frame. I. Variability of ICRF sources. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2013, 552, pp.98. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201219686⟩. ⟨hal-00811441⟩



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