Mid-IR Variability and Dust Reverberation Mapping of Low-z Quasars I. Data, Methods and Basic Results

Jianwei Lyu, George H. Rieke, Paul S. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The continued operation of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) combined with several ground-based optical transient surveys (e.g., CRTS, ASAS-SN and PTF) offer an unprecedented opportunity to explore the dust structures in luminous AGNs. We use these data for a mid-IR dust reverberation mapping (RM) study of 87 archetypal Palomar–Green quasars at z . 0.5. To cope with various contaminations of the photometry data and the sparse time sampling of the light curves, procedures to combine these datasets and retrieve the dust RM signals have been developed. We find that ∼70% of the sample (with a completeness correction, up to 95%) has convincing mid-IR time lags in the WISE W1 (∼ 3.4 µm) and W2 (∼ 4.5 µm) bands and they are proportional to the square root of the AGN luminosity. Combined with previous K-band (∼ 2.2 µm) RM results in the literature, the inferred dust emission size ratios are RK : RW1 : RW2 = 0.6: 1: 1.2. Under simple assumptions, we put preliminary constraints on the projected dust surface density at these bands and reveal the possibly different torus structures among hot-dust-deficient, warm-dust-deficient and normal quasars from the reverberation signals. With multi-epoch Spitzer data and later WISE photometry, we also explore AGN IR variability at 10–24 µm over a 5 yr time-scale. Except for blazars and flat-spectrum radio sources, the majority of AGNs have typical variation amplitudes at 24 µm of no more than 10% of that in the W1 band, indicating that the dust reverberation signals damp out quickly at longer wavelengths. In particular, steep-spectrum radio quasars also lack strong 24 µm variability, consistent with the unification picture of radio-loud AGNs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Sep 24 2019


  • Dust, extinction
  • Galaxies:active
  • Galaxies:Seyfert
  • Infrared:galaxies
  • Quasars:general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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