Variability of Point Sources of Gamma Rays Detected by the Fermi Large-Area Telescope
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The Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope has revolutionized gamma-ray astronomy, allowing the detection of thousands of point sources of gamma rays. Variability studies are of significant interest as a potential source of information about the emission mechanisms, and as a means to identify gamma-ray sources with known sources in other wavelengths and to improve detection sensitivity in searches for new sources. The inclusion of temporal resolution, however, adds to the already considerable complexity of the required analysis, and as a result, variability studies have generally been limited either in scope or in detail, or both, compared to time-integrated spectral analyses. pointlike is a software package designed for fast maximum likelihood analysis of LAT data, allowing for interactive and large-scale analyses. Here, we present an application of pointlike to the characterization of the variability of the full sample of known gamma-ray point sources. We describe the construction of light curves in one-month time bins, spanning the first 42 months of the Fermi mission, for a sample of 2652 sources. We discuss the use of the detection significance in individual months to improve the significance of detection of marginal sources, and show that including that measure of significance increases the set of significantly detected sources by nearly 20% compared to using only the average significance. We describe a statistical measure of the significance of variability in a light curve, and examine the variability of thesample as whole, and of subsets associated with particular source types, especially pulsars. We discuss the use of pulsars, which are generally non-variable on long timescales, to calibrate variability statistics, and to assess the importance of systematic errors in estimates of variability. Finally, we discuss the potential to extend the method to produce light curves of longer duration and finer time binning, and to search for transient sources.
- Physics