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Published by: European Southern Observatory on May 07, 2009
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The Messenger
No. 125 \u2013 September 2006
The Messenger 125 \u2013 September \ue001006
Reports \ue002rom Observers
The Galactic Centre: The Flare Activity o\ue001 SgrA*
and High-Resolution Explorations o\ue001 Dusty Stars1

Andreas Eckart1
Rainer Sch\u00f6del1
Leonhard Meyer1
Koraljka Mu\u02c7 zic\u00b41
J\u00f6rg-Uwe Pott1
Jihane Moultaka1
Christian Straubmeier1
Michal Dovciak\ue001
Vladimir Karas\ue001
Reinhard Genzel3,4
Thomas Ott3
Sascha Trippe3
Francisco Najarro5
Mark Morris6
Fred Bagano\ue001\ue0017

1 I. Physikalisches Institut, University o\ue002
Cologne, Germany
\ue001 Astronomical Institute, Academy o\ue002
Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic
3 Max-Planck-Institut \ue002\u00fcr Extraterres-
trische Physik, Garching, Germany
4 Physics Department, University
o\ue002 Cali\ue002ornia at Berkeley, USA
5 Instituto de Estructura de la Materia,
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones
Cient\u00eds\ue000cas, Madrid, Spain
6 Department o\ue002 Physics and Astronomy,
UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
7 Kavli Institute \ue002or Astrophysics and
Space Research, Massachusetts
Institute o\ue002 Technology, Cambridge,

We summarise the most recent e\ue001\ue001orts
to investigate the properties o\ue001 the
Galactic Centre making extensive use
o\ue001 the instrumental capabilities o\ue001 the
Paranal observatory.

The Galactic Centre is one o\ue002 the most
exciting targets in the sky. At a distance
o\ue002 ~ 8 kpc it is about one hundred times
closer than the second nearest nucle-
us o\ue002 a similar galaxy such as M31 and
there\ue002ore the closest Galactic Nucleus
that we can study. As has been proven
convincingly by the analysis o\ue002 stellar dy-
namics the central stellar cluster har-

bours a (3.7 \u00b1 0.3) \u00d7 106 MA black hole at the position o\ue002 the compact radio source Sagittarius A* (SgrA*). SgrA* represents

the largest Schwarzschild radius pro-
jected on the sky and provides us with
unique in\ue002ormation to understand the
physics and possibly the evolution o\ue002
these objects (see also Eckart, Sch\u00f6del
and Straubmeier \ue001005 and re\ue002erences


Compelling evidence \ue002or a massive black
hole at the position o\ue002 Sgr A* is also
provided by the observation o\ue002 variable
emission \ue002rom that position both in the
X-ray and the near-in\ue002rared domain. Here
NACO observations provided the in\ue002ra-
red data \ue002or the \ue000rst simultaneous NIR/X-
ray fare detections. Repeated measure-
ments have shown that to within less
than 10 minutes the brighter X-ray fares

1 Based on observations with CHANDRA and ESO
VLT observations \ue00171.B-5019, 073.B-0\ue00149,
75.B-0093, 075.B-0113, 076.B-0863, and 077.B-

occur simultaneously to the NIR fare
events. Recent near-in\ue002rared polarimetric
observations with NACO at the VLT UT4
(Yepun) have revealed that some o\ue002 the
one to two hour fares \ue002rom SgrA* show a
surprising \ue000ne structure in the \ue002orm o\ue002
polarised sub-fares that have a width o\ue002
only about 7\u201310 minutes and are spaced
by about 18 \u00b1 3 minutes \ue002rom peak to
peak. These \ue002eatures can success\ue002ully be
interpreted as emission \ue002rom hot spots
that are on relativistic orbits around the
central black hole.

In the near \ue002uture in\ue002rared inter\ue002erometry
with the VLT \u2013 which is already possi-
ble \ue002or the bright and dusty stars at the
Galactic Centre \u2013 will allow us to deter-
mine the emission mechanism and to
model the accretion fow onto the Milky
Way\u2019s central black hole.

Polarised sub-fares \ue002rom SgrA*

Using the NACO adaptive optics (AO) in-
strument at the ESO VLT in \ue001004 and
\ue001005 we have obtained new polarisation
data o\ue002 the variable NIR emission o\ue002 SgrA*
(Eckart et al. \ue001006a; see also Yuse\ue002-
Zadeh et al. \ue001006a). The new data reveal
that some o\ue002 the typically 100 minute long
in\ue002rared fares are modulated by highly
polarised sub-fares with durations o\ue002 only

about 10 minutes (Figure 1 le\ue002t). These
polarised sub-fares have been observed
in both years and have an overall degree
Total intensity for the
polarised spot model
Time [min]
Time [min]
Polarisation angle for
the polarised spot model
Figure 1: Comparison between model results o\ue002 an

orbiting spot model (red lines) \ue002or July \ue001005 and
the measured total fux density (le\ue002t) and polarisation
angle (right). The vertical dashed lines indicate the

times at which sub-fares occurred. For details see
Eckart et al. \ue001006b. The model calculations show
the compatibility o\ue002 the orbiting spot model with the
NIR polarisation data.

The Messenger 125 \u2013 September \ue001006

o\ue002 polarisation o\ue002 the order o\ue002 \ue0010%. In
\ue001005 the main underlying fare was long
enough to observe a minimum o\ue002 three
consecutive sub-fares that are consistent
with a quasi-periodicity o\ue002 18 \u00b1 3 minutes
similar to the value o\ue002 17 \u00b1 \ue001 minutes
\ue002ound in previous NACO observations
(Genzel et al. \ue001003; see also Gillessen
et al. \ue001005). A similar periodicity has
recently also been reported \ue002or a bright
X-ray fare (B\u00e9langer et al. \ue001006). The
rapid variation o\ue002 polarised emission is
most likely indicative o\ue002 synchrotron ra-
diation by relativistic electrons. The in-
trinsic polarisation o\ue002 the sub-fares could
there\ue002ore be up to 60 %.

A pre\ue002erred model that is used to explain
the quasi-periodic polarised fux density
variabilities is that o\ue002 a \ue002aint temporal disc
as part o\ue002 which a hot spot is orbiting the

central black hole (Figure \ue001). Details o\ue002

the exact modelling we used are given in
Dovciak, Karas and Yaqoob (\ue001004). In
this model the temporal variations are ex-
plained due to a relativistic apparent fux
density increase and decrease when the
spot is approaching and receding \ue002rom
the observer. At the same time \ue002ormation
o\ue002 partial Einstein rings due to gravita-
tional lensing decreases the overall polar-
isation o\ue002 the hot spot. All these e\ue002\ue002ects
are a \ue002unction o\ue002 the spot properties as
well as the spin parameter o\ue002 the black
hole and the spin orientation with respect
to the spot orbit. Another model param-
eter is the orientation o\ue002 the magnetic
\ue000eld. A toroidal B-\ue000eld will result in a ro-
tating apparent E-\ue000eld vector. As an al-
ternative the B-\ue000eld arrangement o\ue002 the

spot may be such that the apparent
E-\ue000eld is perpendicular to the disc. The
minimum spin parameter o\ue002a ~ 0.5 is
given by the observed quasi-periodicity.
I\ue002 the spot is at the last stable orbit its
period will be about 3 minutes \ue002or a
prograde orbit around a black hole with
maximum spin (a = 1) and close to
30 minutes \ue002or a stationary non-rotating
black hole (a = 0). Thec\ue001 \ue000ts show the
consistency between the model and the
data. (Figure 1). We \ue000nd a tendency \ue002or
high inclinations, spot radii larger than the
last stable orbit and spin parameters
larger thana = 0.5 (Meyer et al. submit-

ted to A&A).

As an unexpected surprise the position
angle o\ue002 the mean E-\ue000eld vector on
the sky during the sub-fare has a similar
value o\ue002 about 60 \u00b1 30 degrees \ue002or the
two fares in \ue001004 and \ue001005. This sug-
gests a pre\ue002erred orientation o\ue002 the over-
all black hole/disc arrangement with
respect to the observer. Observations o\ue002
\ue002urther polarised fare events are needed
to determine how stable the orientation
o\ue002 the polarisation vector is. Given that we
have not included other possibly impor-
tant \ue002acts that can have an infuence on
the observed light curve, like tilts and
warps o\ue002 the accretion disc, there is a sur-
prisingly good agreement between the
data and the highly idealised model. Fu-
ture simultaneous observations covering
the near-in\ue002rared, radio millimetre and
sub-millimetre domain should provide a
clear discrimination against explana-
tions involving jets. However, near the last
stable orbit a short jet with a length o\ue002

only a \ue002ew Schwarzschild radii (o\ue002 the
order o\ue002 or larger than the width o\ue002 the jet
base, i.e., nozzle) emerging \ue002rom a disc
may likely look almost indistinguishable
\ue002rom a case involving a pure disc or orbit-
ing spots. Here new NACO polarisation
observations to be taken in the upcoming
years as well as planned \ue002uture simulta-
neous radio/NIR/X-ray observing runs will
be needed to con\ue000ne the models.

Simultaneous observations o\ue002 fares
in the NIR and X-ray domain

Following the \ue000rst success\ue002ul experiment
between the VLT and the Chandra satel-
lite during which simultaneous X-ray
and near-in\ue002rared fare emission has been
detected (Eckart et al. \ue001004) new simul-
taneous NIR/sub-millimetre/X-ray ob-
servations o\ue002 the SgrA* counterpart were
recently presented by Eckart et al. \ue001006b
(Figure 3). In addition to NACO, the
Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as the
Submillimeter Array on Mauna Kea,
Hawaii, and the Very Large Array in New
Mexico were involved. For a total o\ue002 \ue002our
near-IR fares we \ue002ound an upper limit
\ue002or a time lag between the X-ray and NIR
fare o\ue002 \u2264 10 minutes \u2013 mainly given by
the required binning width o\ue002 the X-ray
data. The NIR/X-ray fares \ue002rom SgrA* can
be explained with a synchrotron sel\ue002-
Compton (SSC) model involving up-scat-
tered submillimetre photons \ue002rom a
compact source component. Inverse
Compton scattering o\ue002 the THz-peaked
fare spectrum by the relativistic elec-
trons then accounts \ue002or the X-ray emis-

\u2013 15
\u2013 15
\u2013 15
\u2013 15
\u2013 15
\u2013 10
\u2013 15
\u2013 10
\u2013 15
\u2013 15
Figure 2: Apparent images o\ue002 an orbiting hot spot as

seen \ue002rom the observer. The images have been
calculated \ue002or a case o\ue002i = 60\u02da,a = 1 \ue002or a spot at a
distance o\ue002 \ue002our gravitational radii (Rg) \ue002rom the
SgrA* black hole (Dovciak, Karas and Yaqoob \ue001004).
This model compares well to bestc\ue001 \ue000ts to the recent
polarisation data. (Meyer et al. \ue001006, submitted to

A&A). Colours indicate the energy shi\ue002t, the blackest
structures correspond to the \ue002aintest spot images.
The labels A to D correspond to the appearance o\ue002
the spot model at the times labelled \ue002or a single fare
in Figure 1. Lables are given in Rg at the location o\ue002


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