Abstract

The sampling strategy of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) makes TESS light curves extremely valuable for investigating the high cadence optical variability of active galactic nuclei (AGN). However, because the TESS instrument was primarily designed for exoplanet science, the use of the satellite for other applications requires careful treatment of the data. In this paper, we introduce Quaver, a new software tool designed specifically to extract TESS light curves of extended and faint sources presenting stochastic variability. We then use this new tool to extract light curves of the nearby radio-loud AGN Pictor A, and perform a temporal and power spectral analysis of its high-cadence optical variability. The obtained light curves are well fit with a damped random walk (DRW) model, exhibiting both stochastic AGN variations and flaring behavior. The DRW characteristic timescales are τ DRW ∼ 3–6 days during more quiet periods, and τ DRW ∼ 0.8 day for periods with strong flares, even when the flares themselves are masked from the DRW fit. The observed timescales are consistent with the dynamical, orbital, and thermal timescales expected for the low black hole mass of Pictor A.

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