Abstract The long-term optical and infrared color variability of blazars has been investigated with monitoring data from the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS). The sample in this study consists of 49 flat spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs) and 22 BL Lacertae objects (BL Lacs). The fractional variability amplitudes of each source have been calculated in both optical R band and infrared J band. Overall, the variability amplitudes of FSRQs are larger than those of BL Lacs. The results also suggest that the variability amplitude of most FSRQs is larger at a lower energy band (J band) than at a higher one (R band), but the variability amplitude of BL Lacs is larger at the higher energy band. Both types of blazars display color variation along with variability in brightness. However, they show different variation behaviors in general. In the whole data set, 35 FSRQs exhibit redder-when-brighter trends, and 11 FSRQs exhibit opposite trends; 11 BL Lacs follow bluer-when-brighter trends, and seven BL Lacs follow opposite trends. A detailed examination indicates that there are 10 blazars showing redder-when-brighter trends in their low state, and bluer-when-brighter or stable-when-brighter trends in their high state. Some more complicated color behaviors have also been detected in several blazars. The non-thermal jet emission and the thermal emission from the accretion disk are employed to explain the observed color behaviors.
Keywords galaxies: active — BL Lacertae objects: general — quasars: general — methods: statistical
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