skip to main content

Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Falcke, Heino"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Context.The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has recently published the first images of the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). Imaging Sgr A* is plagued by two major challenges: variability on short (approximately minutes) timescales and interstellar scattering along our line of sight. While the scattering is well studied, the source variability continues to push the limits of current imaging algorithms. In particular, movie reconstructions are hindered by the sparse and time-variable coverage of the array.

    Aims.In this paper, we study the impact of the planned Africa Millimetre Telescope (AMT, in Namibia) and Canary Islands telescope (CNI) additions to the time-dependent coverage and imaging fidelity of the EHT array. This African array addition to the EHT further increases the eastwest (u, v) coverage and provides a wider time window to perform high-fidelity movie reconstructions of Sgr A*.

    Methods.We generated synthetic observations of Sgr A*’s accretion flow and used dynamical imaging techniques to create movie reconstructions of the source. To test the fidelity of our results, we used one general-relativistic magneto-hydrodynamic model of the accretion flow and jet to represent the quiescent state and one semi-analytic model of an orbiting hotspot to represent the flaring state.

    Results.We found that the addition of the AMT alone offers a significant increase in the (u, v) coverage, leading to robust averaged images during the first hours of the observating track. Moreover, we show that the combination of two telescopes on the African continent, in Namibia and in the Canary Islands, produces a very sensitive array to reconstruct the variability of Sgr A* on horizon scales.

    Conclusions.We conclude that the African expansion to the EHT increases the fidelity of high-resolution movie reconstructions of Sgr A* to study gas dynamics near the event horizon.

    more » « less

    We present MeqSilhouette v2.0 (MeqSv2), a fully polarimetric, time-and frequency-resolved synthetic data generation software for simulating millimetre (mm) wavelength very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) observations with heterogeneous arrays. Synthetic data are a critical component in understanding real observations, testing calibration and imaging algorithms, and predicting performance metrics of existing or proposed sites. MeqSv2 applies physics-based instrumental and atmospheric signal corruptions constrained by empirically derived site and station parameters to the data. The new version is capable of applying instrumental polarization effects and various other spectrally resolved effects using the Radio Interferometry Measurement Equation (RIME) formalism and produces synthetic data compatible with calibration pipelines designed to process real data. We demonstrate the various corruption capabilities of MeqSv2 using different arrays, with a focus on the effect of complex bandpass gains on closure quantities for the EHT at 230 GHz. We validate the frequency-dependent polarization leakage implementation by performing polarization self-calibration of synthetic EHT data using PolSolve. We also note the potential applications for cm-wavelength VLBI array analysis and design and future directions.

    more » « less
  3. In April 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration reported the first-ever event-horizon-scale images of a black hole, resolving the central compact radio source in the giant elliptical galaxy M 87. These images reveal a ring with a southerly brightness distribution and a diameter of ∼42 μas, consistent with the predicted size and shape of a shadow produced by the gravitationally lensed emission around a supermassive black hole. These results were obtained as part of the April 2017 EHT observation campaign, using a global very long baseline interferometric radio array operating at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. Here, we present results based on the second EHT observing campaign, taking place in April 2018 with an improved array, wider frequency coverage, and increased bandwidth. In particular, the additional baselines provided by the Greenland telescope improved the coverage of the array. Multiyear EHT observations provide independent snapshots of the horizon-scale emission, allowing us to confirm the persistence, size, and shape of the black hole shadow, and constrain the intrinsic structural variability of the accretion flow. We have confirmed the presence of an asymmetric ring structure, brighter in the southwest, with a median diameter of 43.3−3.1+1.5 μas. The diameter of the 2018 ring is remarkably consistent with the diameter obtained from the previous 2017 observations. On the other hand, the position angle of the brightness asymmetry in 2018 is shifted by about 30° relative to 2017. The perennial persistence of the ring and its diameter robustly support the interpretation that the ring is formed by lensed emission surrounding a Kerr black hole with a mass ∼6.5 × 109M. The significant change in the ring brightness asymmetry implies a spin axis that is more consistent with the position angle of the large-scale jet.

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  4. Abstract

    In 2017 the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observed the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), at a frequency of 228.1 GHz (λ= 1.3 mm). The fundamental physics tests that even a single pulsar orbiting Sgr A* would enable motivate searching for pulsars in EHT data sets. The high observing frequency means that pulsars—which typically exhibit steep emission spectra—are expected to be very faint. However, it also negates pulse scattering, an effect that could hinder pulsar detections in the Galactic center. Additionally, magnetars or a secondary inverse Compton emission could be stronger at millimeter wavelengths than at lower frequencies. We present a search for pulsars close to Sgr A* using the data from the three most sensitive stations in the EHT 2017 campaign: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, the Large Millimeter Telescope, and the IRAM 30 m Telescope. We apply three detection methods based on Fourier-domain analysis, the fast folding algorithm, and single-pulse searches targeting both pulsars and burst-like transient emission. We use the simultaneity of the observations to confirm potential candidates. No new pulsars or significant bursts were found. Being the first pulsar search ever carried out at such high radio frequencies, we detail our analysis methods and give a detailed estimation of the sensitivity of the search. We conclude that the EHT 2017 observations are only sensitive to a small fraction (≲2.2%) of the pulsars that may exist close to Sgr A*, motivating further searches for fainter pulsars in the region.

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observations have revealed a bright ring of emission around the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy. EHT images in linear polarization have further identified a coherent spiral pattern around the black hole, produced from ordered magnetic fields threading the emitting plasma. Here we present the first analysis of circular polarization using EHT data, acquired in 2017, which can potentially provide additional insights into the magnetic fields and plasma composition near the black hole. Interferometric closure quantities provide convincing evidence for the presence of circularly polarized emission on event-horizon scales. We produce images of the circular polarization using both traditional and newly developed methods. All methods find a moderate level of resolved circular polarization across the image (〈∣v∣〉 < 3.7%), consistent with the low image-integrated circular polarization fraction measured by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (∣vint∣ < 1%). Despite this broad agreement, the methods show substantial variation in the morphology of the circularly polarized emission, indicating that our conclusions are strongly dependent on the imaging assumptions because of the limited baseline coverage, uncertain telescope gain calibration, and weakly polarized signal. We include this upper limit in an updated comparison to general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulation models. This analysis reinforces the previously reported preference for magnetically arrested accretion flow models. We find that most simulations naturally produce a low level of circular polarization consistent with our upper limit and that Faraday conversion is likely the dominant production mechanism for circular polarization at 230 GHz in M87*.

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a millimeter very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) array that has imaged the apparent shadows of the supermassive black holes M87* and Sagittarius A*. Polarimetric data from these observations contain a wealth of information on the black hole and accretion flow properties. In this work, we develop polarimetric geometric modeling methods for mm-VLBI data, focusing on approaches that fit data products with differing degrees of invariance to broad classes of calibration errors. We establish a fitting procedure using a polarimetric “m-ring” model to approximate the image structure near a black hole. By fitting this model to synthetic EHT data from general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic models, we show that the linear and circular polarization structure can be successfully approximated with relatively few model parameters. We then fit this model to EHT observations of M87* taken in 2017. In total intensity and linear polarization, the m-ring fits are consistent with previous results from imaging methods. In circular polarization, the m-ring fits indicate the presence of event-horizon-scale circular polarization structure, with a persistent dipolar asymmetry and orientation across several days. The same structure was recovered independently of observing band, used data products, and model assumptions. Despite this broad agreement, imaging methods do not produce similarly consistent results. Our circular polarization results, which imposed additional assumptions on the source structure, should thus be interpreted with some caution. Polarimetric geometric modeling provides a useful and powerful method to constrain the properties of horizon-scale polarized emission, particularly for sparse arrays like the EHT.

    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  7. Abstract Interpretation of resolved polarized images of black holes by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) requires predictions of the polarized emission observable by an Earth-based instrument for a particular model of the black hole accretion system. Such predictions are generated by general relativistic radiative transfer (GRRT) codes, which integrate the equations of polarized radiative transfer in curved spacetime. A selection of ray-tracing GRRT codes used within the EHT Collaboration is evaluated for accuracy and consistency in producing a selection of test images, demonstrating that the various methods and implementations of radiative transfer calculations are highly consistent. When imaging an analytic accretion model, we find that all codes produce images similar within a pixel-wise normalized mean squared error (NMSE) of 0.012 in the worst case. When imaging a snapshot from a cell-based magnetohydrodynamic simulation, we find all test images to be similar within NMSEs of 0.02, 0.04, 0.04, and 0.12 in Stokes I , Q , U , and V , respectively. We additionally find the values of several image metrics relevant to published EHT results to be in agreement to much better precision than measurement uncertainties. 
    more » « less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  8. Abstract We report on the observations of the quasar NRAO 530 with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) on 2017 April 5−7, when NRAO 530 was used as a calibrator for the EHT observations of Sagittarius A*. At z = 0.902, this is the most distant object imaged by the EHT so far. We reconstruct the first images of the source at 230 GHz, at an unprecedented angular resolution of ∼20 μ as, both in total intensity and in linear polarization (LP). We do not detect source variability, allowing us to represent the whole data set with static images. The images reveal a bright feature located on the southern end of the jet, which we associate with the core. The feature is linearly polarized, with a fractional polarization of ∼5%–8%, and it has a substructure consisting of two components. Their observed brightness temperature suggests that the energy density of the jet is dominated by the magnetic field. The jet extends over 60 μ as along a position angle ∼ −28°. It includes two features with orthogonal directions of polarization (electric vector position angle), parallel and perpendicular to the jet axis, consistent with a helical structure of the magnetic field in the jet. The outermost feature has a particularly high degree of LP, suggestive of a nearly uniform magnetic field. Future EHT observations will probe the variability of the jet structure on microarcsecond scales, while simultaneous multiwavelength monitoring will provide insight into the high-energy emission origin. 
    more » « less