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Scintillation is an indicator of astrometric stability
We examine the relationship between astrometric stability and astrophysical properties in flat-spectrum radio-loud quasars making up the celestial reference frame. We use position determinations from geodetic very long baseline interferometry measurements and develop a new metric for source position stability. We then compare this quantity to two measures of source compactness: structure index, which probes structure on milliarcsecond scales and the presence of interstellar scintillation associated with the quasar, which probes scales of tens of μas.
We find that persistent scintillators have greater position stability than episodic scintillators, which are in turn more stable than non-scintillators. Scintillators are also more likely to be compact on milliarcsecond scales, as measured by the structure index. Persistent scintillators are therefore excellent candidates for inclusion in any future realization of the celestial reference frame. A list of these sources is presented in Appendix A.
We find that slow (characteristic time-scale >3 d) scintillators have more stable positions than rapid scintillators, suggesting that they are more compact. High-cadence, long-term monitoring is therefore required to identify other members of this population of compact, high brightness temperature quasars.
Publication titleMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Department/SchoolSchool of Natural Sciences
PublisherOxford University Press
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Rights statementCopyright 2013 The Authors