Date of Award

7-17-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. H. Richard Miller - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. William H. Nelson

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul J. Wiita

Fourth Advisor

Dr. D. Michael Crenshaw

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Michael T. Carini

Sixth Advisor

Dr. Douglas R. Gies

Abstract

Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are known to vary in brightness in all regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and over a wide range of timescales. Many methods have been utilized to transform this observed variability into meaningful information about the central engines of AGN. One such technique, adapted from time series analysis of galactic x-ray binary systems, has been used to detect a characteristic break timescale in the power density spectra of x-ray variability in Seyfert galaxies. This timescale, thought to be related to instabilities in the accretion disk, appears to scale with black hole mass over many orders of magnitude. This dissertation performs similar time series analyses with the optical data of eight blazars. The majority of these objects also display a characteristic break timescale. In cases where a black hole estimate is known, the timescales are in good agreement with the relationship observed for galactic x-ray binary systems and Seyfert galaxies. For objects of unknown mass, this relationship can be used to provide a mass estimate of the supermassive black hole. Comparisons are made between the structure function and power density spectrum for each object, and the implications for the connection between the accretion disk and the relativistic jet in AGN are discussed.

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