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  1. Abstract The blazar J1924–2914 is a primary Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) calibrator for the Galactic center’s black hole Sagittarius A*. Here we present the first total and linearly polarized intensity images of this source obtained with the unprecedented 20 μ as resolution of the EHT. J1924–2914 is a very compact flat-spectrum radio source with strong optical variability and polarization. In April 2017 the source was observed quasi-simultaneously with the EHT (April 5–11), the Global Millimeter VLBI Array (April 3), and the Very Long Baseline Array (April 28), giving a novel view of the source at four observing frequencies, 230, 86, 8.7, and 2.3 GHz. These observations probe jet properties from the subparsec to 100 pc scales. We combine the multifrequency images of J1924–2914 to study the source morphology. We find that the jet exhibits a characteristic bending, with a gradual clockwise rotation of the jet projected position angle of about 90° between 2.3 and 230 GHz. Linearly polarized intensity images of J1924–2914 with the extremely fine resolution of the EHT provide evidence for ordered toroidal magnetic fields in the blazar compact core.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. Abstract The extraordinary physical resolution afforded by the Event Horizon Telescope has opened a window onto the astrophysical phenomena unfolding on horizon scales in two known black holes, M87 * and Sgr A*. However, with this leap in resolution has come a new set of practical complications. Sgr A* exhibits intraday variability that violates the assumptions underlying Earth aperture synthesis, limiting traditional image reconstruction methods to short timescales and data sets with very sparse ( u , v ) coverage. We present a new set of tools to detect and mitigate this variability. We develop a data-driven, model-agnostic procedure to detect and characterize the spatial structure of intraday variability. This method is calibrated against a large set of mock data sets, producing an empirical estimator of the spatial power spectrum of the brightness fluctuations. We present a novel Bayesian noise modeling algorithm that simultaneously reconstructs an average image and statistical measure of the fluctuations about it using a parameterized form for the excess variance in the complex visibilities not otherwise explained by the statistical errors. These methods are validated using a variety of simulated data, including general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations appropriate for Sgr A* and M87 * . We findmore »that the reconstructed source structure and variability are robust to changes in the underlying image model. We apply these methods to the 2017 EHT observations of M87 * , finding evidence for variability across the EHT observing campaign. The variability mitigation strategies presented are widely applicable to very long baseline interferometry observations of variable sources generally, for which they provide a data-informed averaging procedure and natural characterization of inter-epoch image consistency.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We present a framework for characterizing the spatiotemporal power spectrum of the variability expected from the horizon-scale emission structure around supermassive black holes, and we apply this framework to a library of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations and associated general relativistic ray-traced images relevant for Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observations of Sgr A*. We find that the variability power spectrum is generically a red-noise process in both the temporal and spatial dimensions, with the peak in power occurring on the longest timescales and largest spatial scales. When both the time-averaged source structure and the spatially integrated light-curve variability are removed, the residual power spectrum exhibits a universal broken power-law behavior. On small spatial frequencies, the residual power spectrum rises as the square of the spatial frequency and is proportional to the variance in the centroid of emission. Beyond some peak in variability power, the residual power spectrum falls as that of the time-averaged source structure, which is similar across simulations; this behavior can be naturally explained if the variability arises from a multiplicative random field that has a steeper high-frequency power-law index than that of the time-averaged source structure. We briefly explore the ability of power spectral variability studiesmore »to constrain physical parameters relevant for the GRMHD simulations, which can be scaled to provide predictions for black holes in a range of systems in the optically thin regime. We present specific expectations for the behavior of the M87* and Sgr A* accretion flows as observed by the EHT.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. Abstract In this paper we quantify the temporal variability and image morphology of the horizon-scale emission from Sgr A*, as observed by the EHT in 2017 April at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. We find that the Sgr A* data exhibit variability that exceeds what can be explained by the uncertainties in the data or by the effects of interstellar scattering. The magnitude of this variability can be a substantial fraction of the correlated flux density, reaching ∼100% on some baselines. Through an exploration of simple geometric source models, we demonstrate that ring-like morphologies provide better fits to the Sgr A* data than do other morphologies with comparable complexity. We develop two strategies for fitting static geometric ring models to the time-variable Sgr A* data; one strategy fits models to short segments of data over which the source is static and averages these independent fits, while the other fits models to the full data set using a parametric model for the structural variability power spectrum around the average source structure. Both geometric modeling and image-domain feature extraction techniques determine the ring diameter to be 51.8 ± 2.3 μ as (68% credible intervals), with the ring thickness constrained to have anmore »FWHM between ∼30% and 50% of the ring diameter. To bring the diameter measurements to a common physical scale, we calibrate them using synthetic data generated from GRMHD simulations. This calibration constrains the angular size of the gravitational radius to be 4.8 − 0.7 + 1.4 μ as, which we combine with an independent distance measurement from maser parallaxes to determine the mass of Sgr A* to be 4.0 − 0.6 + 1.1 × 10 6 M ⊙ .« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  5. Abstract Astrophysical black holes are expected to be described by the Kerr metric. This is the only stationary, vacuum, axisymmetric metric, without electromagnetic charge, that satisfies Einstein’s equations and does not have pathologies outside of the event horizon. We present new constraints on potential deviations from the Kerr prediction based on 2017 EHT observations of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*). We calibrate the relationship between the geometrically defined black hole shadow and the observed size of the ring-like images using a library that includes both Kerr and non-Kerr simulations. We use the exquisite prior constraints on the mass-to-distance ratio for Sgr A* to show that the observed image size is within ∼10% of the Kerr predictions. We use these bounds to constrain metrics that are parametrically different from Kerr, as well as the charges of several known spacetimes. To consider alternatives to the presence of an event horizon, we explore the possibility that Sgr A* is a compact object with a surface that either absorbs and thermally reemits incident radiation or partially reflects it. Using the observed image size and the broadband spectrum of Sgr A*, we conclude that a thermal surface can be ruled out and a fully reflective onemore »is unlikely. We compare our results to the broader landscape of gravitational tests. Together with the bounds found for stellar-mass black holes and the M87 black hole, our observations provide further support that the external spacetimes of all black holes are described by the Kerr metric, independent of their mass.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  6. Abstract We present the first event-horizon-scale images and spatiotemporal analysis of Sgr A* taken with the Event Horizon Telescope in 2017 April at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. Imaging of Sgr A* has been conducted through surveys over a wide range of imaging assumptions using the classical CLEAN algorithm, regularized maximum likelihood methods, and a Bayesian posterior sampling method. Different prescriptions have been used to account for scattering effects by the interstellar medium toward the Galactic center. Mitigation of the rapid intraday variability that characterizes Sgr A* has been carried out through the addition of a “variability noise budget” in the observed visibilities, facilitating the reconstruction of static full-track images. Our static reconstructions of Sgr A* can be clustered into four representative morphologies that correspond to ring images with three different azimuthal brightness distributions and a small cluster that contains diverse nonring morphologies. Based on our extensive analysis of the effects of sparse ( u , v )-coverage, source variability, and interstellar scattering, as well as studies of simulated visibility data, we conclude that the Event Horizon Telescope Sgr A* data show compelling evidence for an image that is dominated by a bright ring of emission with a ring diametermore »of ∼50 μ as, consistent with the expected “shadow” of a 4 × 10 6 M ⊙ black hole in the Galactic center located at a distance of 8 kpc.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  7. 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
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  8. Abstract We present the first Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observations of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the Galactic center source associated with a supermassive black hole. These observations were conducted in 2017 using a global interferometric array of eight telescopes operating at a wavelength of λ = 1.3 mm. The EHT data resolve a compact emission region with intrahour variability. A variety of imaging and modeling analyses all support an image that is dominated by a bright, thick ring with a diameter of 51.8 ± 2.3 μ as (68% credible interval). The ring has modest azimuthal brightness asymmetry and a comparatively dim interior. Using a large suite of numerical simulations, we demonstrate that the EHT images of Sgr A* are consistent with the expected appearance of a Kerr black hole with mass ∼4 × 10 6 M ⊙ , which is inferred to exist at this location based on previous infrared observations of individual stellar orbits, as well as maser proper-motion studies. Our model comparisons disfavor scenarios where the black hole is viewed at high inclination ( i > 50°), as well as nonspinning black holes and those with retrograde accretion disks. Our results provide direct evidence for the presence ofmore »a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and for the first time we connect the predictions from dynamical measurements of stellar orbits on scales of 10 3 –10 5 gravitational radii to event-horizon-scale images and variability. Furthermore, a comparison with the EHT results for the supermassive black hole M87* shows consistency with the predictions of general relativity spanning over three orders of magnitude in central mass.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023