Can microlensing explain the long-term optical variability of quasars?

E. Zackrisson, N. Bergvall, T. Marquart & Phillip Helbig

A&A, 408, 1, 17–25 (September (I) 2003)

Although controversial, the scenario of microlensing as the dominant mechanism for the long-term optical variability of quasars does provide a natural explanation for both the statistical symmetry, achromaticity and lack of cosmological time dilation in quasar light curves. Here, we investigate to what extent dark matter populations of compact objects allowed in the currently favored OmegaM=0.3, OmegaLambda =0.7 cosmology really can explain the quantitative statistical features of the observed variability. We find that microlensing reasonably well reproduces the average structure function of quasars, but fails to explain both the high fraction of objects with amplitudes higher than 0.35 mag and the mean amplitudes observed at redshifts below one. Even though microlensing may still contribute to the long-term optical variability at some level, another significant mechanism must also be involved. This severely complicates the task of using light-curve statistics from quasars which are not multiply imaged to isolate properties of any cosmologically significant population of compact objects which may in fact be present.

info and local links to full paper | DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030895 | ADS: 2003A&A...408...17Z | arXiv: astro-ph/0306434 | Google Scholar
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