Reprocessing Models for the Optical Light Curves of Hypervariable Quasars from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping Project

Tatsuya Akiba, Jason Dexter, W. N. Brandt, Luis C. Ho, Y. Homayouni, Donald P. Schneider, Yue Shen, Jonathan R. Trump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore reprocessing models for a sample of 17 hypervariable quasars, taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Reverberation Mapping project, which all show coordinated optical luminosity hypervariability with amplitudes of factors ≳2 between 2014 and 2020. We develop and apply reprocessing models for quasar light curves in simple geometries that are likely to be representative of quasar inner environments. In addition to the commonly investigated thin-disk model, we include the thick-disk and hemisphere geometries. The thick-disk geometry could, for instance, represent a magnetically elevated disk, whereas the hemisphere model can be interpreted as a first-order approximation for any optically thick out-of-plane material caused by outflows/winds, warped/tilted disks, and so on. Of the 17 quasars in our sample, 11 are best-fitted by a hemisphere geometry, five are classified as thick disks, and both models fail for just one object. We highlight the successes and shortcomings of our thermal reprocessing models in case studies of four quasars that are representative of the sample. While reprocessing is unlikely to explain all of the variability that we observe in quasars, we present our classification scheme as a starting point for revealing the likely geometries of reprocessing for quasars in our sample and hypervariable quasars in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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