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Session 46 - Interstellar Scattering and Scintillation as Tools in Radio Astronomy.
Topical, Oral session, Tuesday, June 09

[46.08] Interstellar Scintillation of Extragalactic Radio Sources

B. Rickett (UC San Diego)

Interstellar scintillation (ISS) causes a Galactic seeing problem for radio astronomy. Thus the flux density from a very compact radio source appears to scintillate on a time scale that ranges from days to minutes depending on the wavelength and Galactic path length. I will review the observed variations from various sources, which are among the most compact cores of active galactic nuclei (AGN). An ISS interpretation of the observed variations yields estimates of the source sizes in the range 0.01 to 10 milliarcsec, often much smaller than the resolution from earth-based VLBI. The recognition of such variations as apparent reduces the implied brightness temperature by a factor as large as one million, compared to the extreme values deduced by interpreting the variations as intrinsic. Some such intraday variable sources also exhibit partially correlated variations in their polarized flux and angle. The changes in interstellar Faradya rotation are too slow to cause such variations by many orders of magnitude. I will report on attempts to model the polarized flux variations as due to independent ISS from polarized components with intrinsic polarization structure in the source at a level of tens of microarcseconds.

I will also discuss how Frail et al. (Nature, 389, 261, 1997) used interstellar scintillation to estimate the size of the expanding fireball in the radio afterglow of gamma-ray burst 970508.

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