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Optical flux and spectral variability of blazars




We report the results of optical monitoring for a sample of 11 blazars including 10 BL Lacertae objects (BL Lacs) and one flat spectrum radio quasar (FSRQ). We have measured the multiband optical flux and colour variations in these blazars on intraday and short-term time-scales of months and have limited data for two more blazars. These photometric observations were made during 2009–2011, using six optical telescopes, four in Bulgaria, one in Greece and one in India. On short-term time-scales we found significant flux variations in nine of the sources and colour variations in three of them. Intraday variability was detected on six nights for two sources out of the 18 nights and four sources for which we collected such data. These new optical observations of these blazars plus data from our previous published papers (for three more blazars) were used to analyse their spectral flux distributions in the optical frequency range. Our full sample for this purpose includes six high-synchrotron-frequency-peaked BL Lacs (HSPs), three intermediate-synchrotron-frequency-peaked BL Lacs (ISPs) and six low-synchrotron-frequency-peaked BL Lacs (LSPs; including both BL Lacs and FSRQs). We also investigated the spectral slope variability and found that the average spectral slopes of LSPs show a good accordance with the synchrotron self-Compton loss dominated model. Our analysis supports previous studies that found that the spectra of the HSPs and FSRQs have significant additional emission components. The spectra of all these HSPs and LSPs get flatter when they become brighter, while for FSRQs the opposite appears to hold. This supports the hypothesis that there is a significant thermal contribution to the optical spectrum for FSRQs.

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