Timing Signatures of the Internal-Shock Model for Blazars

We investigate the spectral and timing signatures of the internal-shock model for blazars. For this purpose, we develop a semi-analytical model for the time-dependent radiative output from internal shocks arising from colliding relativistic shells in a blazar jet. The emission through synchrotron and synchrotron-self Compton (SSC) radiation as well as Comptonization of an isotropic external radiation field are taken into account. We evaluate the discrete correlation function (DCF) of the model light curves in order to evaluate features of photon-energy dependent time lags and the quality of the correlation, represented by the peak value of the DCF. The almost completely analytic nature of our approach allows us to study in detail the influence of various model parameters on the resulting spectral and timing features. This paper focuses on a range of parameters in which the gamma-ray production is dominated by Comptonization of external radiation, most likely appropriate for gamma-ray bright flat-spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs) or low-frequency peaked BL Lac objects (LBLs). In most cases relevant for FSRQs and LBLs, the variability of the optical emission is highly correlated with the X-ray and high-energy (HE: > 100 MeV) gamma-ray emission. Our baseline model predicts a lead of the optical variability with respect to the higher-energy bands by 1 - 2 hours and of the HE gamma-rays before the X-rays by about 1 hour. We show that variations of certain parameters may lead to changing signs of inter-band time lags, potentially explaining the lack of persistent trends of time lags in most blazars.

Comments: Accepted for publication in ApJ

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