From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC via Manu Garcia: “Discover the causes of the apparent displacement of a supermassive black hole”

From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

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From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC

Observing the core of Messier 87, HST-1 galaxy.

Messier 87 image with WFC3 HST (2016) with F814W filter. different knots are seen along the jet, including the first node HST-1. Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble.

NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope


The study by two researchers from Instituto de Astrofísica reveals that the shift observed in the nucleus of the galaxy Messier 87 is not due to a shift of its massive black hole, but variations in light production in the center of the galaxy caused by bursts from a jet, a flow of material relativistic beam as the hole itself emits.

Today it is assumed that all massive galaxies contain a supermassive black hole (SMBH, for its acronym in English) at its core. In recent years galaxies are looking for candidates to present a SMBHs displaced from its equilibrium position. Among the scenarios that can cause this displacement are merging two SMBHs or the existence of a binary system SMBHs, which gives information about galactic evolution and formation frequency and fusion of such objects.

One of the galaxies candidates to present a displaced SMBHs is the giant elliptical Messier 87, containing one of the closest and best-studied active galaxy nuclei (AGN, for its acronym in English). Previous research SMBHs displacement of Messier 87 gave very different results, which was confusing. However, a new study by the student of the University of La Laguna (ULL), Elena López Navas has provided new data suggesting that the SMBHs of this galaxy is in its equilibrium position and shifts found must be variations in the production center or photocentric light caused by bursts from the relativistic jet, a flow of matter that the hole itself expelled outside at speeds near that of light.

Research has been necessary to analyze a large number of high-resolution images of Messier 87 taken at different times and with different instruments installed on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
•KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
•MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
•YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo

“Given these results, we realized that the images showed a shift in the center of the galaxy were taken at a time when M87 was a huge explosion that could be measured in all ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum,” adds Almudena Prieto , co-author and researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC). This outbreak took place between 2003 and 2007 at the node nearest the nucleus known as Messier 87 HST-1 jet. During the duration of the phenomenon, this knot increased its flow coming to shine even more than the core itself. “Temporal analysis of displacement of center of the galaxy shows that indeed the burst is related to the change of the position of photocentric – clarifies the astrophysics, however, after this phenomenon, and the core photocentric meet occupying the same place, so we deduce that the core and the black hole are always in the same location coinciding with the minimum of galactic potential. ”

Displacements found (in milli – arcseconds) against the date of
observation of each analyzed image. An increase of displacement is observed
around 2005, when the maximum emission occurred in the first
knot jet, HST-1. Credit: Elena Lopez.

“In our work we have found that the SMBHs is in a stable over the last 20 years position; On the contrary, what changes is the production center of light or Fotocentro “says Lopez, author of this study, as work Master’s Research in Astrophysics, which has just been published in the journal <em>Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</em> (MNRAS).

The new data have caused great interest among the astrophysics community, as the study SMBHs position of M87 is crucial to understanding the evolution of this galaxy and analysis of other AGN jets. “In addition, this research reminds us that we must be cautious when considering variables sources with irregularities such as, in this case, a huge jet,” says Lopez, who is currently conducting a training grant in astrophysical research at the IAC.

Work Master Thesis: E. Lopez Navas (2018 ULL), “Measurement and analysis of the displacement between the Fotocentro and the supermassive black hole in M87“.

Elena Lopez Navas, ULL student / IAC:
Almudena Prieto Escudero, a researcher at the IAC:

See the full article here.

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The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias(IAC) is an international research centre in Spain which comprises:

The Instituto de Astrofísica, the headquarters, which is in La Laguna (Tenerife).
The Centro de Astrofísica en La Palma (CALP)
The Observatorio del Teide (OT), in Izaña (Tenerife).
The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), in Garafía (La Palma).

Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

These centres, with all the facilities they bring together, make up the European Northern Observatory(ENO).

The IAC is constituted administratively as a Public Consortium, created by statute in 1982, with involvement from the Spanish Government, the Government of the Canary Islands, the University of La Laguna and Spain’s Science Research Council (CSIC).

The International Scientific Committee (CCI) manages participation in the observatories by institutions from other countries. A Time Allocation Committee (CAT) allocates the observing time reserved for Spain at the telescopes in the IAC’s observatories.

The exceptional quality of the sky over the Canaries for astronomical observations is protected by law. The IAC’s Sky Quality Protection Office (OTPC) regulates the application of the law and its Sky Quality Group continuously monitors the parameters that define observing quality at the IAC Observatories.

The IAC’s research programme includes astrophysical research and technological development projects.

The IAC is also involved in researcher training, university teaching and outreachactivities.

The IAC has devoted much energy to developing technology for the design and construction of a large 10.4 metre diameter telescope, the ( Gran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC), which is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos.

Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, SpainGran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC