AGILE detection of a strong gamma-ray flare from the blazar 3C 454.3

Vercellone, S.
Chen, A. W.
Giuliani, A.
Bulgarelli, A.
Donnarumma, I.
Lapshov, I.
Tavani, M.
Argan, A.
Barbiellini, G.
Caraveo, P.
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We report the first blazar detection by the AGILE satellite. AGILE detected 3C 454.3 during a period of strongly enhanced optical emission in July 2007. AGILE observed the source with a dedicated repointing during the period 2007 July 24-30 with its two co-aligned imagers, the Gamma-Ray Imaging Detector and the hard X-ray imager Super-AGILE sensitive in the 30 MeV-50 GeV and 18-60 keV, respectively. Over the entire period, AGILE detected gamma-ray emission from 3C 454.3 at a significance level of 13.8-$\sigma$ with an average flux (E$>$100 MeV) of $(280 \pm 40) \times 10^{-8}$ photons cm$^{-2}$ s$^{-1}$. The gamma-ray flux appears to be variable towards the end of the observation. No emission was detected by Super-AGILE in the energy range 20-60 keV, with a 3-$\sigma$ upper limit of $2.3 \times 10^{-3}$ photons cm$^{-2}$ s$^{-1}$. The gamma-ray flux level of 3C 454.3 detected by AGILE is the highest ever detected for this quasar and among the most intense gamma-ray fluxes ever detected from Flat Spectrum Radio Quasars.
Comment: Accepted by Astrophysical Journal Letters; 14 pages, 3 EPS Figures, 1 Table