Flaring behavior of the quasar 3C 454.3 across the electromagnetic spectrum

Svetlana G. Jorstad, Alan P. Marscher, Valeri M. Larionov, Iván Agudo, Paul S. Smith, Mark Gurwell, Anne Lähteenmäki, Merja Tornikoski, Alex Markowitz, Arkadi A. Arkharov, Dmitry A. Blinov, Ritaban Chatterjee, Francesca D. D'Arcangelo, Abe D. Falcone, José L. Gómez, Vladimir A. Hagen-Thorn, Brendan Jordan, Givi N. Kimeridze, Tatiana S. Konstantinova, Evgenia N. KopatskayaOmar Kurtanidze, Elena G. Larionova, Liudmilla V. Larionova, Ian M. McHardy, Daria A. Melnichuk, Mar Roca-Sogorb, Garyd Schmidt, Brian Skiff, Brian Taylor, Clemens Thum, Ivan S. Troitsky, Helmut Wiesemeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

165 Scopus citations


We analyze the behavior of the parsec-scale jet of the quasar 3C 454.3 during pronounced flaring in 2005-2008. Three major disturbances propagated down the jet along different trajectories with Lorentz factors Γ > 10. The disturbances show a clear connection with millimeter-wave outbursts, in 2005 May/June, 2007 July, and 2007 December. High-amplitude optical events in the R-band light curve precede peaks of the millimeter-wave outbursts by 15-50 days. Each optical outburst is accompanied by an increase in X-ray activity. We associate the optical outbursts with propagation of the superluminal knots and derive the location of sites of energy dissipation in the form of radiation. The most prominent and long lasting of these, in 2005 May, occurred closer to the black hole, while the outbursts with a shorter duration in 2005 autumn and in 2007 might be connected with the passage of a disturbance through the millimeter-wave core of the jet. The optical outbursts, which coincide with the passage of superluminal radio knots through the core, are accompanied by systematic rotation of the position angle of optical linear polarization. Such rotation appears to be a common feature during the early stages of flares in blazars. We find correlations between optical variations and those at X-ray and γ-ray energies. We conclude that the emergence of a superluminal knot from the core yields a series of optical and high-energy outbursts, and that the millimeter-wave core lies at the end of the jet's acceleration and collimation zone. We infer that the X-ray emission is produced via inverse Compton scattering by relativistic electrons of photons both from within the jet (synchrotron self-Compton) and external to the jet (external Compton, or EC); which one dominates depends on the physical parameters of the jet. A broken power-law model of the γ-ray spectrum reflects a steepening of the synchrotron emission spectrum from near-IR to soft UV wavelengths. We propose that the γ-ray emission is dominated by the EC mechanism, with the sheath of the jet supplying seed photons for γ-ray events that occur near the millimeter-wave core.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-384
Number of pages23
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: jets
  • Polarization
  • Quasars: individual (3C 454.3) X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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