Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

H. Richard Miller


Recent research has lead to the possible discovery of a new class of gamma-ray emitting ac- tive galactic nuclei (AGN). These objects – the very radio-loud narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxies (NLSy1s)– demonstrate observational features suggesting that they are similar to blazars. One of the key characteristics of blazars is the presence of high-amplitude optical microvariability. While this phenomenon has been investigated in individual objects, no study of the intra-night variability of radio-loud NLSy1s as a class has previously been available. This dissertation presents a sys- tematic search for optical variability in a sample of 33 radio-loud NLSy1s. It was found that 26 objects demonstrated microvariations. However, only 9 objects did so with duty cycles comparable to blazars, and only 7 of these 9 objects — J0706+3901, J0849+5108, J0948+0022, J1246+0238, PKS 1502+036, J1644+2619, and IRAS 20181-2244 — demonstrated microvariability at compa- rable amplitudes.

Two objects stand out as exceptional sources. J0849+5108 was found to have a duty cycle of ~90% and was observed to undergo an enormous 4-magnitude optical flare in a two-month time span. The object has not been reported to have undergone such an event since 1975. The second object, J0948+0022, is the class prototype. High cadence data indicates that J0948+0022 has a remarkably rapid doubling time scale of ~40 minutes, and it was seen to vary by over 0.9 magnitudes within an individual night. Attempts to correlate microvariability to radio loudness, gamma-ray loudness, and other parameters were largely unsuccessful. However, it was found that only radio-loud NLSy1s that were detected at gamma-ray energies demonstrated microvariability at blazar-like duty cycles. Additionally, an analysis of the frequency of microvariations at various amplitudes suggests that the sample of radio-loud NLSy1s presented in this study share a parent population identical to low energy peaked BL Lac-type (LBL) blazars. This is in agreement with the work of astronomers such as Abdo et al. 2009, who have created spectral energy distributions for a few radio-loud NLSy1s and found them to resemble those of LBLs. Blazar-like variability was found in multiple objects with radio loudnesses of log(R) < 2, suggesting that even moderately radio-loud NLSy1s may be blazar-like objects.

Available for download on Thursday, July 28, 2016