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  1. ABSTRACT The variability of quasars across multiple wavelengths is a useful probe of physical conditions in active galactic nuclei. In particular, variable accretion rates, instabilities, and reverberation effects in the accretion disc of a supermassive black hole are expected to produce correlated flux variations in ultraviolet (UV) and optical bands. Recent work has further argued that binary quasars should exhibit strongly correlated UV and optical periodicities. Strong UV–optical correlations have indeed been established in small samples of (N ≲ 30) quasars with well-sampled light curves, and have extended the ‘bluer-when-brighter’ trend previously found within the optical bands. Here, we further test the nature of quasar variability by examining the observed-frame UV–optical correlations among bright quasars extracted from the Half Million Quasars (HMQ) catalogue. We identified a large sample of 1315 quasars in HMQ with overlapping UV and optical light curves from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer and the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey, respectively. We find that strong correlations exist in this much larger sample, but we rule out, at ∼95 per cent confidence, the simple hypothesis that the intrinsic UV and optical variations of all quasars are fully correlated. Our results therefore imply the existence of physical mechanism(s) that can generate uncorrelated opticalmore »and UV flux variations.« less
  2. ABSTRACT The bright quasar PG1302-102 has been identified as a candidate supermassive black hole binary from its near-sinusoidal optical variability. While the significance of its optical periodicity has been debated due to the stochastic variability of quasars, its multiwavelength variability in the ultraviolet (UV) and optical bands is consistent with relativistic Doppler boost caused by the orbital motion in a binary. However, this conclusion was based previously on sparse UV data that were not taken simultaneously with the optical data. Here, we report simultaneous follow-up observations of PG1302-102 with the Ultraviolet Optical Telescope on the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory in six optical + UV bands. The additional nine Swift observations produce light curves roughly consistent with the trend under the Doppler boost hypothesis, which predicts that UV variability should track the optical, but with a ∼2.2 times higher amplitude. We perform a statistical analysis to quantitatively test this hypothesis. We find that the data are consistent with the Doppler boost hypothesis when we compare the the amplitudes in optical B-band and UV light curves. However, the ratio of UV to V-band variability is larger than expected and is consistent with the Doppler model, only if either the UV/optical spectral slopes vary,more »the stochastic variability makes a large contribution in the UV, or the sparse new optical data underestimate the true optical variability. We have evidence for the latter from comparison with the optical light curve from All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae. Additionally, the simultaneous analysis of all four bands strongly disfavours the Doppler boost model whenever Swift V band is involved. Additional, simultaneous optical + UV observations tracing out another cycle of the 5.2-yr proposed periodicity should lead to a definitive conclusion.« less