Negative Lags on the Viscous Timescale in Quasar Photometry and Prospects for Detecting More with LSST

Amy Secunda, Jenny E. Greene, Yan Fei Jiang, Philippe Z. Yao, Abderahmen Zoghbi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The variability of quasar light curves can be used to study the structure of quasar accretion disks. For example, continuum reverberation mapping uses delays between variability in short and long wavelength bands (short lags) to measure the radial extent and temperature profile of the disk. Recently, a potential reverse lag, where variations in shorter wavelength bands lag the longer wavelength bands at the much longer viscous timescale, was detected for Fairall 9. Inspired by this detection, we derive a timescale for these long negative lags from fluctuation propagation models and recent simulations. We use this timescale to forecast our ability to detect long lags using the Vera Rubin Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). After exploring several methods, including the interpolated cross-correlation function, a Von-Neumann estimator, javelin, and a maximum-likelihood Fourier method, we find that our two main methods, javelin and the maximum-likelihood method, can together detect long lags of up to several hundred days in mock LSST light curves. Our methods work best on proposed LSST cadences with long season lengths, but can also work for the current baseline LSST cadence, especially if we add observations from other optical telescopes during seasonal gaps. We find that LSST has the potential to detect dozens to hundreds of additional long lags. Detecting these long lags can teach us about the vertical structure of quasar disks and how it scales with different quasar properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number81
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Negative Lags on the Viscous Timescale in Quasar Photometry and Prospects for Detecting More with LSST'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this