skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on January 12, 2023

Title: Swift study of long-term changes in the X-ray flaring properties of Sagittarius A
ABSTRACT The radiative counterpart of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre, Sagittarius A*, displays flaring emission in the X-ray band atop a steady, quiescent level. Flares are also observed in the near-infrared band. The physical process producing the flares is not fully understood and it is unclear if the flaring rate varies, although some recent works suggest it has reached unprecedented variability in recent years. Using over a decade of regular X-ray monitoring of Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, we studied the variations in count rate of Sgr A* on time-scales of years. We decomposed the X-ray emission into quiescent and flaring emission, modelled as a constant and power-law process, respectively. We found that the complete, multiyear data set cannot be described by a stationary distribution of flare fluxes, while individual years follow this model better. In three of the ten studied years, the data is consistent with a purely Poissonian quiescent distribution, while for 5 yr, only an upper limit of the flare flux distribution parameter could be determined. We find that these possible changes cannot be explained fully by the different number of observations per year. Combined, these results are instead consistent with a changing flaring rate of Sgr A*, more » appearing more active between 2006–2007 and 2017–2019, than between 2008–2012. Finally, we discuss this result in the context of flare models and the passing of gaseous objects, and discuss the extra statistical steps taken, for instance, to deal with the background in the Swift observations. « less
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
2851 to 2863
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract We present Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) 1.3 mm measurements of the radio source located at the position of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), collected during the 2017 April 5–11 campaign. The observations were carried out with eight facilities at six locations across the globe. Novel calibration methods are employed to account for Sgr A*'s flux variability. The majority of the 1.3 mm emission arises from horizon scales, where intrinsic structural source variability is detected on timescales of minutes to hours. The effects of interstellar scattering on the image and its variability are found to be subdominant to intrinsic source structure. The calibrated visibility amplitudes, particularly the locations of the visibility minima, are broadly consistent with a blurred ring with a diameter of ∼50 μ as, as determined in later works in this series. Contemporaneous multiwavelength monitoring of Sgr A* was performed at 22, 43, and 86 GHz and at near-infrared and X-ray wavelengths. Several X-ray flares from Sgr A* are detected by Chandra, one at low significance jointly with Swift on 2017 April 7 and the other at higher significance jointly with NuSTAR on 2017 April 11. The brighter April 11 flare is not observed simultaneouslymore »by the EHT but is followed by a significant increase in millimeter flux variability immediately after the X-ray outburst, indicating a likely connection in the emission physics near the event horizon. We compare Sgr A*’s broadband flux during the EHT campaign to its historical spectral energy distribution and find that both the quiescent emission and flare emission are consistent with its long-term behavior.« less
  2. Chromospheric Ca II activity cycles are frequently found in late-type stars, but no systematic programs have been created to search for their coronal X-ray counterparts. The typical time scale of Ca II activity cycles ranges from years to decades. Therefore, long-lasting missions are needed to detect the coronal counterparts. The XMM-Newton satellite has so far detected X-ray cycles in five stars. A particularly intriguing question is at what age (and at what activity level) X-ray cycles set in. To this end, in 2015 we started the X-ray monitoring of the young solar-like star ɛ Eridani, previously observed on two occasions: in 2003 and in early 2015, both by XMM-Newton . With an age of 440 Myr, it is one of the youngest solar-like stars with a known chromospheric Ca II cycle. We collected the most recent Mount Wilson S-index data available for ɛ Eridani, starting from 2002, including previously unpublished data. We found that the Ca II cycle lasts 2.92 ± 0.02 yr, in agreement with past results. From the long-term XMM-Newton lightcurve, we find clear and systematic X-ray variability of our target, consistent with the chromospheric Ca II cycle. The average X-ray luminosity is 2 × 10 28 ergmore »s −1 , with an amplitude that is only a factor of 2 throughout the cycle. We apply a new method to describe the evolution of the coronal emission measure distribution of ɛ Eridani in terms of solar magnetic structures: active regions, cores of active regions, and flares covering the stellar surface at varying filling fractions. Combinations of these three types of magnetic structures can only describe the observed X-ray emission measure of ɛ Eridani if the solar flare emission measure distribution is restricted to events in the decay phase. The interpretation is that flares in the corona of ɛ Eridani last longer than their solar counterparts. We ascribe this to the lower metallicity of ɛ Eridani. Our analysis also revealed that the X-ray cycle of ɛ Eridani is strongly dominated by cores of active regions. The coverage fraction of cores throughout the cycle changes by the same factor as the X-ray luminosity. The maxima of the cycle are characterized by a high percentage of covering fraction of the flares, consistent with the fact that flaring events are seen in the corresponding short-term X-ray lightcurves predominately at the cycle maxima. The high X-ray emission throughout the cycle of ɛ Eridani is thus explained by the high percentage of magnetic structures on its surface.« less

    Sgr A* exhibits flares in the near-infrared and X-ray bands, with the luminosity in these bands increasing by factors of 10–100 for ≈60 min. One of the models proposed to explain these flares is synchrotron emission of non-thermal particles accelerated by magnetic reconnection events in the accretion flow. We use the results from particle-in-cell simulations of magnetic reconnection to post-process 3D two-temperature GRMHD simulations of a magnetically arrested disc (MAD). We identify current sheets, retrieve their properties, estimate their potential to accelerate non-thermal particles, and compute the expected non-thermal synchrotron emission. We find that the flux eruptions of MADs can provide suitable conditions for accelerating non-thermal particles to energies γe ≲ 106 and producing simultaneous X-ray and near-infrared flares. For a suitable choice of current-sheet parameters and a simplified synchrotron cooling prescription, the model can simultaneously reproduce the quiescent and flaring X-ray luminosities as well as the X-ray spectral shape. While the near-infrared flares are mainly due to an increase in the temperature near the black hole during the MAD flux eruptions, the X-ray emission comes from narrow current sheets bordering highly magnetized, low-density regions near the black hole, and equatorial current sheets where the flux on the blackmore »hole reconnects. As a result, not all infrared flares are accompanied by X-ray ones. The non-thermal flaring emission can extend to very hard (≲ 100 keV) X-ray energies.

    « less
  4. ABSTRACT Sgr A* exhibits regular variability in its multiwavelength emission, including daily X-ray flares and roughly continuous near-infrared (NIR) flickering. The origin of this variability is still ambiguous since both inverse Compton and synchrotron emission are possible radiative mechanisms. The underlying particle distributions are also not well constrained, particularly the non-thermal contribution. In this work, we employ the GPU-accelerated general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics code H-AMR to perform a study of flare flux distributions, including the effect of particle acceleration for the first time in high-resolution 3D simulations of Sgr A*. For the particle acceleration, we use the general relativistic ray-tracing code bhoss to perform the radiative transfer, assuming a hybrid thermal+non-thermal electron energy distribution. We extract ∼60 h light curves in the sub-millimetre, NIR and X-ray wavebands, and compare the power spectra and the cumulative flux distributions of the light curves to statistical descriptions for Sgr A* flares. Our results indicate that non-thermal populations of electrons arising from turbulence-driven reconnection in weakly magnetized accretion flows lead to moderate NIR and X-ray flares and reasonably describe the X-ray flux distribution while fulfilling multiwavelength flux constraints. These models exhibit high rms per cent amplitudes, $\gtrsim 150{{\ \rm per\ cent}}$ both in the NIR and the X-rays, with changes inmore »the accretion rate driving the 230 GHz flux variability, in agreement with Sgr A* observations.« less
  5. Abstract Even small solar flares can display a surprising level of complexity regarding their morphology and temporal evolution. Many of their properties, such as energy release and electron acceleration can be studied using highly complementary observations at X-ray and radio wavelengths. We present X-ray observations from the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager and radio observations from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) of a series of GOES A3.4–B1.6 class flares observed on 2013 April 23. The flares, as seen in X-ray and extreme ultraviolet, originated from multiple locations within active region NOAA 11726. A veritable zoo of different radio emissions between 1 GHz and 2 GHz was observed cotemporally with the X-ray flares. In addition to broadband continuum emission, broadband short-lived bursts and narrowband spikes, indicative of accelerated electrons, were observed. However, these sources were located up to 150″ away from the flaring X-ray sources but only some of these emissions could be explained as signatures of electrons that were accelerated near the main flare site. For other sources, no obvious magnetic connection to the main flare site could be found. These emissions likely originate from secondary acceleration sites triggered by the flare, but may bemore »due to reconnection and acceleration completely unrelated to the cotemporally observed flare. Thanks to the extremely high sensitivity of the VLA, not achieved with current X-ray instrumentation, it is shown that particle acceleration happens frequently and at multiple locations within a flaring active region.« less