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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. 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 aremore »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 studies 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
  3. Abstract In this paper we provide a first physical interpretation for the Event Horizon Telescope's (EHT) 2017 observations of Sgr A*. Our main approach is to compare resolved EHT data at 230 GHz and unresolved non-EHT observations from radio to X-ray wavelengths to predictions from a library of models based on time-dependent general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations, including aligned, tilted, and stellar-wind-fed simulations; radiative transfer is performed assuming both thermal and nonthermal electron distribution functions. We test the models against 11 constraints drawn from EHT 230 GHz data and observations at 86 GHz, 2.2 μ m, and in the X-ray. Allmore »models fail at least one constraint. Light-curve variability provides a particularly severe constraint, failing nearly all strongly magnetized (magnetically arrested disk (MAD)) models and a large fraction of weakly magnetized models. A number of models fail only the variability constraints. We identify a promising cluster of these models, which are MAD and have inclination i ≤ 30°. They have accretion rate (5.2–9.5) × 10 −9 M ⊙ yr −1 , bolometric luminosity (6.8–9.2) × 10 35 erg s −1 , and outflow power (1.3–4.8) × 10 38 erg s −1 . We also find that all models with i ≥ 70° fail at least two constraints, as do all models with equal ion and electron temperature; exploratory, nonthermal model sets tend to have higher 2.2 μ m flux density; and the population of cold electrons is limited by X-ray constraints due to the risk of bremsstrahlung overproduction. Finally, we discuss physical and numerical limitations of the models, highlighting the possible importance of kinetic effects and duration of the simulations.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. 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 tomore »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 find 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
  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 Sgrmore »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 one 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 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 Sgrmore »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 an 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
  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 subdominantmore »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 simultaneously 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 comparativelymore »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 of 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
  9. Abstract The black hole images obtained with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) are expected to be variable at the dynamical timescale near their horizons. For the black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy, this timescale (5–61 days) is comparable to the 6 day extent of the 2017 EHT observations. Closure phases along baseline triangles are robust interferometric observables that are sensitive to the expected structural changes of the images but are free of station-based atmospheric and instrumental errors. We explored the day-to-day variability in closure-phase measurements on all six linearly independent nontrivial baseline triangles that can be formedmore »from the 2017 observations. We showed that three triangles exhibit very low day-to-day variability, with a dispersion of ∼3°–5°. The only triangles that exhibit substantially higher variability (∼90°–180°) are the ones with baselines that cross the visibility amplitude minima on the u – v plane, as expected from theoretical modeling. We used two sets of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations to explore the dependence of the predicted variability on various black hole and accretion-flow parameters. We found that changing the magnetic field configuration, electron temperature model, or black hole spin has a marginal effect on the model consistency with the observed level of variability. On the other hand, the most discriminating image characteristic of models is the fractional width of the bright ring of emission. Models that best reproduce the observed small level of variability are characterized by thin ring-like images with structures dominated by gravitational lensing effects and thus least affected by turbulence in the accreting plasmas.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  10. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) observations of active galactic nuclei at millimetre wavelengths have the power to reveal the launching and initial collimation region of extragalactic radio jets, down to 10–100 gravitational radii ( r g  ≡  G M / c 2 ) scales in nearby sources 1 . Centaurus A is the closest radio-loud source to Earth 2 . It bridges the gap in mass and accretion rate between the supermassive black holes (SMBHs) in Messier 87 and our Galactic Centre. A large southern declination of −43° has, however, prevented VLBI imaging of Centaurus A below a wavelength of 1 cm thusmore »far. Here we show the millimetre VLBI image of the source, which we obtained with the Event Horizon Telescope at 228 GHz. Compared with previous observations 3 , we image the jet of Centaurus A at a tenfold higher frequency and sixteen times sharper resolution and thereby probe sub-lightday structures. We reveal a highly collimated, asymmetrically edge-brightened jet as well as the fainter counterjet. We find that the source structure of Centaurus A resembles the jet in Messier 87 on ~500  r g scales remarkably well. Furthermore, we identify the location of Centaurus A’s SMBH with respect to its resolved jet core at a wavelength of 1.3 mm and conclude that the source’s event horizon shadow 4 should be visible at terahertz frequencies. This location further supports the universal scale invariance of black holes over a wide range of masses 5,6 .« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 19, 2022