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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  2. Context. In February 2017 the blazar OJ 287, one of the best super-massive binary-black-hole-system candidates, was detected for the first time at very high energies (VHEs; E  > 100 GeV) with the ground-based γ -ray observatory VERITAS. Aims. Very high energy γ rays are thought to be produced in the near vicinity of the central engine in active galactic nuclei. For this reason, and with the main goal of providing useful information for the characterization of the physical mechanisms connected with the observed teraelectronvolt flaring event, we investigate the parsec-scale source properties by means of high-resolution very long baseline interferometry observations.more »Methods. We use 86 GHz Global Millimeter-VLBI Array (GMVA) observations from 2015 to 2017 and combine them with additional multiwavelength radio observations at different frequencies from other monitoring programs. We investigate the source structure by modeling the brightness distribution with two-dimensional Gaussian components in the visibility plane. Results. In the GMVA epoch following the source VHE activity, we find a new jet feature (labeled K) at ∼0.2 mas from the core region and located in between two quasi-stationary components (labeled S1 and S2). Multiple periods of enhanced activity are detected at different radio frequencies before and during the VHE flaring state. Conclusions. Based on the findings of this work, we identify as a possible trigger for the VHE flaring emission during the early months of 2017 the passage of a new jet feature through a recollimation shock (represented by the model-fit component S1) in a region of the jet located at a de-projected distance of ∼10 pc from the radio core.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  3. Context. Standing and moving shocks in relativistic astrophysical jets are very promising sites for particle acceleration to large Lorentz factors and for the emission from the radio up to the γ -ray band. They are thought to be responsible for at least part of the observed variability in radio-loud active galactic nuclei. Aims. We aim to simulate the interactions of moving shock waves with standing recollimation shocks in structured and magnetized relativistic jets and to characterize the profiles of connected flares in the radio light curve. Methods. Using the relativistic magneto-hydrodynamic code MPI-AMRVAC and a radiative transfer code in post-processing,more »we explore the influence of the magnetic-field configuration and transverse stratification of an over-pressured jet on its morphology, on the moving shock dynamics, and on the emitted radio light curve. First, we investigate different large-scale magnetic fields with their effects on the standing shocks and on the stratified jet morphology. Secondly, we study the interaction of a moving shock wave with the standing shocks. We calculated the synthetic synchrotron maps and radio light curves and analyze the variability at two frequencies 1 and 15.3 GHz and for several observation angles. Finally, we compare the characteristics of our simulated light curves with radio flares observed from the blazar 3C 273 with the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and Very Long Baseline Array in the MOJAVE survey between 2008 and 2019. Results. We find that in a structured over-pressured relativistic jet, the presence of the large-scale magnetic field structure changes the properties of the standing shock waves and leads to an opening in the jet. The interaction between waves from inner and outer jet components can produce strong standing shocks. When crossing such standing shocks, moving shock waves accompanying overdensities injected in the base of the jet cause very luminous radio flares. The observation of the temporal structure of these flares under different viewing angles probes the jet at different optical depths. At 1 GHz and for small angles, the self-absorption caused by the moving shock wave becomes more important and leads to a drop in the observed flux after it interacts with the brightest standing knot. A weak asymmetry is seen in the shape of the simulated flares, resulting from the remnant emission of the shocked standing shocks. The characteristics of the simulated flares and the correlation of peaks in the light curve with the crossing of moving and standing shocks favor this scenario as an explanation of the observed radio flares of 3C 273.« less
  4. Context. Blazars are the most numerous class of high-energy (HE; E ∼ 50 MeV−100 GeV) and very high-energy (VHE; E ∼ 100 GeV−10 TeV) gamma-ray emitters. Currently, a measured spectroscopic redshift is available for only about 50% of gamma-ray BL Lacertae objects (BL Lacs), mainly due to the difficulty in measuring reliable redshifts from their nearly featureless continuum-dominated optical spectra. The knowledge of the redshift is fundamental for understanding the emission from blazars, for population studies and also for indirect studies of the extragalactic background light and searches for Lorentz invariance violation and axion-like particles using blazars. Aims. This papermore »is the first in a series of papers that aim to measure the redshift of a sample of blazars likely to be detected with the upcoming Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), a ground-based gamma-ray observatory. Methods. Monte Carlo simulations were performed to select those hard spectrum gamma-ray blazars detected with the Fermi -LAT telescope still lacking redshift measurements, but likely to be detected by CTA in 30 hours of observing time or less. Optical observing campaigns involving deep imaging and spectroscopic observations were organised to efficiently constrain their redshifts. We performed deep medium- to high-resolution spectroscopy of 19 blazar optical counterparts with the Keck II, SALT, and ESO NTT telescopes. We searched systematically for spectral features and, when possible, we estimated the contribution of the host galaxy to the total flux. Results. We measured eleven firm spectroscopic redshifts with values ranging from 0.1116 to 0.482, one tentative redshift, three redshift lower limits including one at z ≥ 0.449 and another at z ≥ 0.868. Four BL Lacs show featureless spectra.« less
  5. Context. The response of imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes to incident γ -ray-initiated showers in the atmosphere changes as the telescopes age due to exposure to light and weather. These aging processes affect the reconstructed energies of the events and γ -ray fluxes. Aims. This work discusses the implementation of signal calibration methods for the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) to account for changes in the optical throughput and detector performance over time. Methods. The total throughput of a Cherenkov telescope is the product of camera-dependent factors, such as the photomultiplier tube gains and their quantum efficiencies, andmore »the mirror reflectivity and Winston cone response to incoming radiation. This document summarizes different methods to determine how the camera gains and mirror reflectivity have evolved over time and how we can calibrate this changing throughput in reconstruction pipelines for imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. The implementation is validated against seven years of observations with the VERITAS telescopes of the Crab Nebula, which is a reference object in very-high-energy astronomy. Results. Regular optical throughput monitoring and the corresponding signal calibrations are found to be critical for the reconstruction of extensive air shower images. The proposed implementation is applied as a correction to the signals of the photomultiplier tubes in the telescope simulation to produce fine-tuned instrument response functions. This method is shown to be effective for calibrating the acquired γ -ray data and for recovering the correct energy of the events and photon fluxes. At the same time, it keeps the computational effort of generating Monte Carlo simulations for instrument response functions affordably low.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  6. Abstract HESS J0632+057 belongs to a rare subclass of binary systems that emit gamma rays above 100 GeV. It stands out for its distinctive high-energy light curve, which features a sharp “primary” peak and broader “secondary” peak. We present the results of contemporaneous observations by NuSTAR and VERITAS during the secondary peak between 2019 December and 2020 February, when the orbital phase ( ϕ ) is between 0.55 and 0.75. NuSTAR detected X-ray spectral evolution, while VERITAS detected TeV emission. We fit a leptonic wind-collision model to the multiwavelength spectra data obtained over the four NuSTAR and VERITAS observations, constrainingmore »the pulsar spin-down luminosity and the magnetization parameter at the shock. Despite long-term monitoring of the source from 2019 October to 2020 March, the MDM observatory did not detect significant variation in H α and H β line equivalent widths, an expected signature of Be-disk interaction with the pulsar. Furthermore, fitting folded Swift-XRT light-curve data with an intrabinary shock model constrained the orbital parameters, suggesting two orbital phases (at ϕ D = 0.13 and 0.37), where the pulsar crosses the Be-disk, as well as phases for the periastron ( ϕ 0 = 0.30) and inferior conjunction ( ϕ IFC = 0.75). The broadband X-ray spectra with Swift-XRT and NuSTAR allowed us to measure a higher neutral hydrogen column density at one of the predicted disk-passing phases.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  7. Abstract Flat-spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs) are the most luminous blazars at GeV energies but only rarely emit detectable fluxes of TeV gamma rays, typically during bright GeV flares. We explore the gamma-ray variability and spectral characteristics of three FSRQs that have been observed at GeV and TeV energies by Fermi-LAT and VERITAS, making use of almost 100 hr of VERITAS observations spread over 10 yr: 3C 279, PKS 1222+216, and Ton 599. We explain the GeV flux distributions of the sources in terms of a model derived from a stochastic differential equation describing fluctuations in the magnetic field in themore »accretion disk and estimate the timescales of magnetic flux accumulation and stochastic instabilities in their accretion disks. We identify distinct flares using a procedure based on Bayesian blocks and analyze their daily and subdaily variability and gamma-ray energy spectra. Using observations from VERITAS, as well as Fermi, Swift, and the Steward Observatory, we model the broadband spectral energy distributions of PKS 1222+216 and Ton 599 during very high energy (VHE)–detected flares in 2014 and 2017, respectively, strongly constraining the jet Doppler factors and gamma-ray emission region locations during these events. Finally, we place theoretical constraints on the potential production of PeV-scale neutrinos during these VHE flares.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  8. Extragalactic background light (EBL) plays an important role in cosmology since it traces the history of galaxy formation and evolution. Such diffuse radiation from near-UV to far-infrared wavelengths can interact with γ -rays from distant sources such as active galactic nuclei (AGNs), and is responsible for the high-energy absorption observed in their spectra. However, probing the EBL from γ -ray spectra of AGNs is not trivial due to internal processes that can mimic its effect. Such processes are usually taken into account in terms of curvature of the intrinsic spectrum. Hence, an improper choice of parametrization for the latter canmore »seriously affect EBL reconstruction. In this paper, we propose a statistical approach that avoids a priori assumptions on the intrinsic spectral curvature and that, for each source, selects the best-fit model on a solid statistical basis. By combining the Fermi -LAT observations of 490 blazars, we determine the γ -ray-inferred level of EBL for various state-of-the-art EBL models. We discuss the EBL level obtained from the spectra of both BL Lacs and flat spectrum radio quasars (FSRQ) in order to investigate the impact of internal absorption in different classes of objects. We further scrutinize constraints on the EBL evolution from γ -ray observations by reconstructing the EBL level in four redshift ranges, up to z  ∼ 2.5. The approach implemented in this paper, carefully addressing the question of the modeling of the intrinsic emission at the source, can serve as a solid stepping stone for studies of hundreds of high-quality spectra acquired by next-generation γ -ray instruments.« less