The VMC survey VI : Quasars behind the Magellanic system
Van Loon, J.T.
Gibson, B. K.
Context. The number and spatial distribution of confirmed quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) behind the Magellanic system is limited. This undermines their use as astrometric reference objects for different types of studies. Aims. We have searched for criteria to identify candidate QSOs using observations from the VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds system (VMC) that provides photometry in the YJK bands and 12 epochs in the K band. Methods. The (Y-J) versus (J-K) diagram has been used to distinguish QSO candidates from Milky Way stars and stars of the Magellanic Clouds. Then, the slope of variation in the K band has been used to identify a sample of high confidence candidates. These criteria were developed based on the properties of 117 known QSOs presently observed by the VMC survey. Results. VMC YJK magnitudes and K light-curves of known QSOs behind the Magellanic system are presented. About 75% of them show a slope of variation in K>10 mag/day and the shape of the light-curve is in general irregular and without any clear periodicity. The number of QSOcandidates found in tiles including the south ecliptic pole and the 30 Doradus regions is 22 and 26, respectively, with a ∼20% contamination by young stellar objects, planetary nebulae, stars and normal galaxies. Conclusions. By extrapolating the number of QSOcandidates to the entire VMC survey area we expect to find about 1200QSOs behind the LMC, 400 behind the SMC, 200 behind the Bridge and 30 behind the Stream areas, but not all will be suitable for astrometry. Further, the K band light-curves can help support investigations of the mechanism responsible for the variations.