Measuring the Size of Quasar Broad‐Line Clouds through Time‐Delay Light‐Curve Anomalies of Gravitational Lenses

J. Stuart B. Wyithe, Abraham Loeb
2002 Astrophysical Journal  
Intensive monitoring campaigns have recently attempted to measure the time delays between multiple images of gravitational lenses. Some of the resulting light-curves show puzzling low-level, rapid variability which is unique to individual images, superimposed on top of (and concurrent with) longer time-scale intrinsic quasar variations which repeat in all images. We demonstrate that both the amplitude and variability time-scale of the rapid light-curve anomalies, as well as the correlation
more » ... he correlation observed between intrinsic and microlensed variability, are naturally explained by stellar microlensing of a smooth accretion disk which is occulted by optically-thick broad-line clouds. The rapid time-scale is caused by the high velocities of the clouds (~5x10^3 km/s), and the low amplitude results from the large number of clouds covering the magnified or demagnified parts of the disk. The observed amplitudes of variations in specific lenses implies that the number of broad-line clouds that cover ~10% of the quasar sky is ~10^5 per 4 pi steradian. This is comparable to the expected number of broad line clouds in models where the clouds originate from bloated stars.
doi:10.1086/342121 fatcat:yl55ux74lzeafpa6xhugd3sfda