easyFermi: a graphical interface for performing Fermi-LAT data analyses

We are pleased to announce the release of easyFermi, a graphical interface that facilitates the usage of Fermi-LAT data. It takes only 10~15 min to learn how to use this tool, and the user can very easily compute the gamma-ray flux, photon index, spectral energy distribution, light curve, and significance map for any gamma-ray target.

easyFermi allows astronomers from all niches to quickly analyze Fermi-LAT data in just a few clicks. The installation guideline and analysis tutorials can be found on GitHub, while the paper detailing easyFermi can be found here. Come on, give it a try!

Paper: On the physical association of Fermi-LAT blazars with their low-energy counterparts

Associating γ-ray sources to their low-energy counterparts is one of the major challenges of modern γ-ray astronomy. In the context of the Fourth Fermi Large Area Telescope Source Catalog (4FGL), the associations rely mainly on parameters as apparent magnitude, integrated flux, and angular separation between the γ-ray source and its low-energy candidate counterpart. In this work we propose a new use of likelihood ratio (LR) and a complementary random forest (RF) technique to associate γ-ray blazars in 4FGL, based only on spectral parameters as γ-ray photon index, mid-infrared colors and radio-loudness.

The LR method

We modified the LR method used in 4FGL to estimate the association probability ρ of a counterpart for a given γ-ray  source. For each 4FGL source, we considered the γ-ray photon index interval ΔΓ= [Γ -σ, Γ + σ], where σ is the uncertainty on the photon index as listed in 4FGL. Then, given the known correlations between  Γ, the mid-infrared (MIR) colors c, and the MIR radio-loudness q for γ-ray blazars, we selected only those sources with parameters lying within the ΔΓ intervals, as in the figure below:


For each MIR counterpart i of a γ-ray blazar source j we computed the LR and then the association probability ρ as a function of the LR, as shown in the figure below.


The RF method

The RF is an ensemble classifier that uses decision trees as building blocks for classification. For classifying a new object, each tree in the forest chooses one class and, by aggregating the predictions of all decision trees, the RF makes a final prediction based on the choice made by the majority of the trees, thus improving the predictive capability and reducing the tendency of standard decision trees to overfit the training sample.

We trained the RF method with basically the same atributes used in the LR approach obtaining a modest final accuracy of ~80%. As this accuracy is not very high, we opted by using the RF approach as a complementary method to the LR.


Compared with 4FGL, the association probabilities found by our methods tend to be higher than those listed in 4FGL (see figure below).

LR_comparison_zero.pngIn this work we were able to associate ~1000 blazars with both LR and RF methods, where ~300 of them are good targets for future optical spectroscopic campaigns. This was also the first work where spectral properties of blazars were used to associate γ-ray sources to their low-energy counterparts. Previous methods rely basically on parameters like apparent magnitude and angular separation between the γ-ray source center and the position of its candidate counterpart.

The original discussion of this work can be found in de Menezes et al. (2020).

This work was supported by FAPESP (Fundação de Ampara à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) under grants 2016/25484-9, 2018/24801-6 (R. de Menezes) and 2017/01461-2 (R. Nemmen); and by many other institutions.



Paper: Gamma-ray observations of low-luminosity active galactic nuclei

The majority of the activity around nearby (z ~ 0) supermassive black holes (SMBHs) is found in low-luminosity active galactic nuclei (LLAGN), the most of them being classified as low ionization nuclear emission regions (LINERs). Although these sources are well studied from radio up to X-rays, they are poorly understood in gamma-rays. In this work we take advantage of the all sky-surveying capabilities of the Large Area Telescope on board Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope to study the whole Palomar sample of LLAGN in gamma-rays.

Gamma-rays from the accretion flow

The observational properties of LLAGN favor a scenario for their central engines which is quite different from that of more luminous AGN: since the SMBHs are accreting at low rates they are in the radiatively inefficient accretion flow (RIAF) mode (Narayan & Yi 1994) rather than radiatively efficient geometrically thin accretion disks (Shakura & Sunyaev 1973).  RIAFs store most of the viscous energy and advect it into the SMBH. The viscous heating affects mainly the ions, while the radiation is produced primarily by the electrons.

The presence of both RIAFs and jets in LLAGN produces a rich multiwavelength spectral energy distribution (SED) in which a gamma-ray component should be expected. There are multiple possible origins for the gamma-ray emission. In the vicinity of the event horizon, the ion temperature of a RIAF can reach 10¹² K (Yuan & Narayan 2014), thus enabling proton-proton collisions and the production of neutral pions, which subsequently decay into pairs of GeV photons (Mahadevan et al. 1997). Furthermore, synchrotron self-Compton (SSC) emission is expected from the jet. Quantifying and modeling the gamma-ray emission from LLAGN is the main goal of this work.


Precisely, the four radio-brightest LLAGN in the sample are identified as significant gamma-ray emitters, all of which are recognized as powerful Fanaroff-Riley I galaxies. These results suggest that the presence of powerful radio jets is of substantial importance for observing a significant gamma-ray counterpart even if these jets are misaligned with respect to the line of sight (see figure below, left panel). We also find that most of the X-ray-brightest LLAGN do not have a significant gamma-ray and strong radio emission, suggesting that the X-rays come mainly from the accretion flow in these cases (see figure below, right panel).

Lgamma_Lradio_noerrorbar  Gamma_Xrays_noerrorbar

When comparing different emission models to the SEDs of these gamma-ray-bright LLAGN, we find that they are well described by a jet-dominated model in the form of a one-zone synchrotron-SSC jet scenario, similar to what is expected when observing blazars (see figure below, left panel). We also find that models invoking the origin of the electromagnetic radiation in a RIAF fail to explain the observed gamma-ray emission but are able to reproduce the radio-to-X-ray emission (see figure below, right panel). Since the gamma-ray-bright LLAGN consist of powerful radio galaxies, it is not entirely unexpected that their emission can be dominated by a jet even if misaligned to the observer’s line of sight.


The original discussion of this work can be found in de Menezes et al. (2020).

This work was supported by FAPESP (Fundação de Ampara à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) under grants 2016/25484-9, 2018/24801-6 (R. de Menezes), 2017/01461-2 (R. Nemmen) and 2019/10054-7 (I. Almeida); and many other institutions.





Paper: Optical characterization of WISE selected blazar candidates

Over the last decade more than five thousand gamma-ray sources were detected by the Large Area Telescope (LAT) on board Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Given the large positional uncertainty of the telescope, nearly 30% of these sources remain without an obvious counterpart in lower energies; these are called unassociated gamma-ray sources (UGSs). This motivated the release of several catalogs of gamma-ray counterpart candidates and several follow up campaigns in the last decade.

Majority is dominated by blazars

Between the associated sources, the large majority is composed by blazars, divided into BL Lacs, with a characteristic lineless spectrum (see figure below), and flat spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs), with broad emission lines and radio spectral index  α < 0.5 (defined by the flux density S_ν ∝ ν^−α). In this sense, some of the most successful catalogs of gamma-ray candidate counterparts are the WISE Blazar-Like Radio-Loud Sources (WIBRaLS) catalog and the Kernel Density Estimation selected candidate BL Lacs (KDEBLLACS) catalog, both selecting blazar-like sources based on their infrared colors from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).

In this work we characterized these two catalogs, clarifying the true nature of their sources based on their optical spectra from Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) data release (DR) 15, thus testing how efficient they are in selecting true blazars. If a WIBRaLS2 or KDEBLLAC source is a true blazar, its spectrum may look like the following:



Based on the optical SDSS spectra, we found that at least ~30% of each catalog is composed by confirmed blazars, with quasars (QSOs) being the major contaminants in the case of WIBRaLS2 (~58%) and normal galaxies in the case of KDEBLLACS (~38.2%). We found that specially in the case of KDEBLLACS, the contaminants are mainly concentrated in the edges of the WISE color-color diagram (see figure below) and can be easily separated from the spectroscopically confirmed BL Lacs.

Some sources in the Fermi-LAT catalogs are considered blazar candidates of uncertain type (BCUs) because the adopted association methods select a counterpart that satisfies at least one of the following conditions: i) An object classified as blazar of uncertain or transitional type in Roma-BZCAT. ii) A source with multiwavelength data indicating a typical two-humped blazar-like spectral energy distribution (SED) and/or a flat radio spectrum. BCUs are divided into three sub-types:

– BCU I: the counterpart has a published optical spectrum which is not sensitive enough for classifying it as FSRQ or BL Lac.

– BCU II: there is no available optical spectrum but an evaluation of the SED synchrotron peak position is possible.

– BCU III: the counterpart shows typical blazar broadband emission and a flat radio spectrum, but lacks a optical spectrum and reliable measurement of the synchrotron peak position.

In 4FGL, 1155 sources are considered as BCUs. Our analysis based on the optical spectra available in SDSS DR15 allowed us to give a conclusive classification for 11 of them: 2 BL Lacs, 4 BL Lacs with spectra dominated by the host galaxy, and 5 FSRQs. The SDSS spectral analysis also allowed us to find 25 new BL Lac objects which will be included in future releases of Roma-BZCAT.

This work contributes to a better understanding of the γ-ray sky in the Fermi-LAT era. In particular, the community will benefit from the characterization of WIBRaLS2 and KDEBLLACS in population studies of blazars and in subsequent programs of spectroscopic follow-up needed to confirm the nature of the UGSs.

The detailed discussion can be found here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1908.05229

This work was supported by FAPESP (Fundação de Ampara à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo) under grants 2016/25484-9, 2018/24801-6 and 2017/01461-2; and many other institutions.