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  1. Abstract

    Direct imaging of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at event horizon-scale resolutions, as recently done by the Event Horizon Telescope, allows for testing alternative models to SMBHs such as Kerr naked singularities (KNSs). We demonstrate that the KNS shadow can be closed, open, or vanishing, depending on the spins and observational inclination angles. We study the critical parameters where the KNS shadow opens a gap, a distinctive phenomenon that does not happen with the black hole shadow. We show that the KNS shadow can only be closed for dimensionless spina≲ 1.18 and vanishing fora≳ 1.18 for certain ranges of inclination angles. We further analyze the effective angular momentum of photon orbits to demonstrate the fundamental connections between light geodesics and the KNS shadow geometry. We also perform numerical general relativistic ray-tracing calculations, which reproduce the analytical topological change in the KNS shadow, and illustrate other observational features within the shadow due to the lack of an event horizon. By comparing the geometric features of the KNS shadow with black hole shadow observations, the topological change in the shadow of KNSs can be used to test the cosmic censorship hypothesis and KNSs as alternative models to SMBHs.

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  2. Abstract

    Images of supermassive black hole accretion flows contain features of both curved spacetime and plasma structure. Inferring properties of the spacetime from images requires modeling the plasma properties, and vice versa. The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration has imaged near-horizon millimeter emission from both Messier 87* (M87*) and Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) with very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) and has found a preference for magnetically arrested disk (MAD) accretion in each case. MAD accretion enables spacetime measurements through future observations of the photon ring, the image feature composed of near-orbiting photons. The ordered fields and relatively weak Faraday rotation of MADs yield rotationally symmetric polarization when viewed at modest inclination. In this letter, we utilize this symmetry along with parallel transport symmetries to construct a gain-robust interferometric quantity that detects the transition between the weakly lensed accretion flow image and the strongly lensed photon ring. We predict a shift in polarimetric phases on long baselines and demonstrate that the photon rings in M87* and Sgr A* can be unambiguously detected with sensitive, long-baseline measurements. For M87*, we find that photon ring detection in snapshot observations requires ∼1 mJy sensitivity on >15 Gλbaselines at 230 GHz and above, which could be achieved with space-VLBI or higher-frequency ground-based VLBI. For Sgr A*, we find that interstellar scattering inhibits photon ring detectability at 230 GHz, but ∼10 mJy sensitivity on >12 Gλbaselines at 345 GHz is sufficient and is accessible from the ground. For both sources, these sensitivity requirements may be relaxed by repeated observations and averaging.

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  3. Abstract

    The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has produced images of M87* and Sagittarius A*, and will soon produce time sequences of images, or movies. In anticipation of this, we describe a technique to measure the rotation rate, or pattern speed Ωp, from movies using an autocorrelation technique. We validate the technique on Gaussian random field models with a known rotation rate and apply it to a library of synthetic images of Sgr A* based on general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations. We predict that EHT movies will have Ωp≈ 1° perGMc−3, which is of order 15% of the Keplerian orbital frequency in the emitting region. We can plausibly attribute the slow rotation seen in our models to the pattern speed of inward-propagating spiral shocks. We also find that Ωpdepends strongly on inclination. Application of this technique will enable us to compare future EHT movies with the clockwise rotation of Sgr A* seen in near-infrared flares by GRAVITY. Pattern speed analysis of future EHT observations of M87* and Sgr A* may also provide novel constraints on black hole inclination and spin, as well as an independent measurement of black hole mass.

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  4. Abstract

    The variance and fractional variance on a fixed time window (variously known as “rms percent” or “modulation index”) are commonly used to characterize the variability of astronomical sources. We summarize properties of this statistic for a Gaussian process.

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  5. Abstract

    We investigate general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations to determine the physical origin of the twisty patterns of linear polarization seen in spatially resolved black hole images and explain their morphological dependence on black hole spin. By characterizing the observed emission with a simple analytic ring model, we find that the twisty morphology is determined by the magnetic field structure in the emitting region. Moreover, the dependence of this twisty pattern on spin can be attributed to changes in the magnetic field geometry that occur due to the frame dragging. By studying an analytic ring model, we find that the roles of Doppler boosting and lensing are subdominant. Faraday rotation may cause a systematic shift in the linear polarization pattern, but we find that its impact is subdominant for models with strong magnetic fields and modest ion-to-electron temperature ratios. Models with weaker magnetic fields are much more strongly affected by Faraday rotation and have more complicated emission geometries than can be captured by a ring model. However, these models are currently disfavoured by the recent EHT observations of M87*. Our results suggest that linear polarization maps can provide a probe of the underlying magnetic field structure around a black hole, which may then be usable to indirectly infer black hole spins. The generality of these results should be tested with alternative codes, initial conditions, and plasma physics prescriptions.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) images of the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87 provided the first image of the accretion environment on horizon scales. General relativity (GR) predicts that the image of the shadow should be nearly circular given the inclination angle of the black hole M87*. A robust detection of ellipticity in image reconstructions of M87* could signal new gravitational physics on horizon scales. Here we analyze whether the imaging parameters used in EHT analyses are sensitive to ring ellipticity, and measure the constraints on the ellipticity of M87*. We find that the top set is unable to recover ellipticity. Even for simple geometric models, the true ellipticity is biased low, preferring circular rings. Therefore, to place a constraint on the ellipticity of M87*, we measure the ellipticity of 550 synthetic data sets produced from GRMHD simulations. We find that images with intrinsic axis ratios of 2:1 are consistent with the ellipticity seen from EHT image reconstructions.

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  7. Abstract

    The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has produced images of the plasma flow around the supermassive black holes in Sgr A* and M87* with a resolution comparable to the projected size of their event horizons. Observations with the next-generation Event Horizon Telescope (ngEHT) will have significantly improved Fourier plane coverage and will be conducted at multiple frequency bands (86, 230, and 345 GHz), each with a wide bandwidth. At these frequencies, both Sgr A* and M87* transition from optically thin to optically thick. Resolved spectral index maps in the near-horizon and jet-launching regions of these supermassive black hole sources can constrain properties of the emitting plasma that are degenerate in single-frequency images. In addition, combining information from data obtained at multiple frequencies is a powerful tool for interferometric image reconstruction, since gaps in spatial scales in single-frequency observations can be filled in with information from other frequencies. Here we present a new method of simultaneously reconstructing interferometric images at multiple frequencies along with their spectral index maps. The method is based on existing regularized maximum likelihood (RML) methods commonly used for EHT imaging and is implemented in theeht-imagingPython software library. We show results of this method on simulated ngEHT data sets as well as on real data from the Very Long Baseline Array and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. These examples demonstrate that simultaneous RML multifrequency image reconstruction produces higher-quality and more scientifically useful results than is possible from combining independent image reconstructions at each frequency.

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  8. Abstract

    We develop a “dual-cone” model for millimeter wavelength emission near a spinning black hole. The model consists of optically thin, luminous cones of emission, centered on the spin axis, which are meant to represent jet walls. The resulting image is dominated by a thin ring. We first consider the effect of the black hole’s spin on the image and show that the dominant effect is to displace the ring perpendicular to the projection of the spin axis on the sky by2a*sini+(a*3). This effect is lower order ina*than changes in the shape and size of the photon ring itself but is undetectable without a positional reference. We then show that the centerline of the jet can provide a suitable reference: its location is exactly independent of spin if the observer is outside the cone and nearly independent of spin if the observer is inside the cone. If astrophysical uncertainties can be controlled, then spin displacement is large enough to be detectable by future space very long baseline interferometry missions. Finally, we consider ring substructure in the dual-cone model and show that features in total intensity are not universal and depend on the cone-opening angle.

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  9. Abstract

    Objects orbiting in the presence of a rotating massive body experience a gravitomagnetic frame-dragging effect, known as the Lense-Thirring effect, that has been experimentally confirmed in the weak-field limit. In the strong-field limit, near the horizon of a rotating black hole, frame dragging becomes so extreme that all objects must co-rotate with the black hole’s angular momentum. In this work, we perform general relativistic numerical simulations to identify observable signatures of frame dragging in the strong-field limit that appear when infalling gas is forced to flip its direction of rotation as it is being accreted. In total intensity images, infalling streams exhibit “S”-shaped features due to the switch in the tangential velocity. In linear polarization, a flip in the handedness of spatially resolved polarization ticks as a function of radius encodes a transition in the magnetic field geometry that occurs due to magnetic flux freezing in the dragged plasma. Using a network of telescopes around the world, the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration has demonstrated that it is now possible to directly image black holes on event horizon scales. We show that the phenomena described in this work would be accessible to the next-generation Event Horizon Telescope and extensions of the array into space, which would produce spatially resolved images on event horizon scales with higher spatial resolution and dynamic range.

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  10. 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.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2024