When surrounded by a transparent emission region, black holes are expected to reveal a dark shadow caused by gravitational light bending and photon capture at the event horizon. To image and study this phenomenon, we have assembled the Event Horizon Telescope, a global very long baseline interferometry array observing at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. This allows us to reconstruct event-horizon-scale images of the supermassive black hole candidate in the center of the giant elliptical galaxy M87. We have resolved the central compact radio source as an asymmetric bright emission ring with a diameter of 42±3 μas, which is circular and encompasses a central depression in brightness with a flux ratio 10:1. The emission ring is recovered using different calibration and imaging schemes, with its diameter and width remaining stable over four different observations carried out in different days. Overall, the observed image is consistent with expectations for the shadow of a Kerr black hole as predicted by general relativity. The asymmetry in brightness in the ring can be explained in terms of relativistic beaming of the emission from a plasma rotating close to the speed of light around a black hole. We compare our images to an extensive library of ray-traced general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations of black holes and derive a central mass of M=(6.5±0.7)×10 9 M e . Our radiowave observations thus provide powerful evidence for the presence of supermassive black holes in centers of galaxies and as the central engines of active galactic nuclei. They also present a new tool to explore gravity in its most extreme limit and on a mass scale that was so far not accessible.
We present measurements of the properties of the central radio source in M87 using Event Horizon Telescope data obtained during the 2017 campaign. We develop and fit geometric crescent models (asymmetric rings with interior brightness depressions) using two independent sampling algorithms that consider distinct representations of the visibility data. We show that the crescent family of models is statistically preferred over other comparably complex geometric models that we explore. We calibrate the geometric model parameters using general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) models of the emission region and estimate physical properties of the source. We further fit images generated from GRMHD models directly to the data. We compare the derived emission region and black hole parameters from these analyses with those recovered from reconstructed images. There is a remarkable consistency among all methods and data sets. We find that >50% of the total flux at arcsecond scales comes from near the horizon, and that the emission is dramatically suppressed interior to this region by a factor >10, providing direct evidence of the predicted shadow of a black hole. Across all methods, we measure a crescent diameter of 42±3 μas and constrain its fractional width to be <0.5. Associating the crescent feature with the emission surrounding the black hole shadow, we infer an angular gravitational radius of GM/Dc 2 =3.8±0.4 μas. Folding in a distance measurement of -+ 16.8 Mpc 0.7 0.8 gives a black hole mass of = ´ | | M M 6.5 0.2 0.7 10 stat sys 9. This measurement from lensed emission near the event horizon is consistent with the presence of a central Kerr black hole, as predicted by the general theory of relativity.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has mapped the central compact radio source of the elliptical galaxy M87 at 1.3 mm with unprecedented angular resolution. Here we consider the physical implications of the asymmetric ring seen in the 2017 EHT data. To this end, we construct a large library of models based on general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations and synthetic images produced by general relativistic ray tracing. We compare the observed visibilities with this library and confirm that the asymmetric ring is consistent with earlier predictions of strong gravitational lensing of synchrotron emission from a hot plasma orbiting near the black hole event horizon. The ring radius and ring asymmetry depend on black hole mass and spin, respectively, and both are therefore expected to be stable when observed in future EHT campaigns. Overall, the observed image is consistent with expectations for the shadow of a spinning Kerr black hole as predicted by general relativity. If the black hole spin and M87's large scale jet are aligned, then the black hole spin vector is pointed away from Earth. Models in our library of non-spinning black holes are inconsistent with the observations as they do not produce sufficiently powerful jets. At the same time, in those models that produce a sufficiently powerful jet, the latter is powered by extraction of black hole spin energy through mechanisms akin to the Blandford-Znajek process. We briefly consider alternatives to a black hole for the central compact object. Analysis of existing EHT polarization data and data taken simultaneously at other wavelengths will soon enable new tests of the GRMHD models, as will future EHT campaigns at 230 and 345 GHz.
We present the first Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) images of M87, using observations from April 2017 at 1.3 mm wavelength. These images show a prominent ring with a diameter of ∼40 μas, consistent with the size and shape of the lensed photon orbit encircling the "shadow" of a supermassive black hole. The ring is persistent across four observing nights and shows enhanced brightness in the south. To assess the reliability of these results, we implemented a two-stage imaging procedure. In the first stage, four teams, each blind to the others' work, produced images of M87 using both an established method (CLEAN) and a newer technique (regularized maximum likelihood). This stage allowed us to avoid shared human bias and to assess common features among independent reconstructions. In the second stage, we reconstructed synthetic data from a large survey of imaging parameters and then compared the results with the corresponding ground truth images. This stage allowed us to select parameters objectively to use when reconstructing images of M87. Across all tests in both stages, the ring diameter and asymmetry remained stable, insensitive to the choice of imaging technique. We describe the EHT imaging procedures, the primary image features in M87, and the dependence of these features on imaging assumptions.
Recent developments in compact object astrophysics, especially the discovery of merging neutron stars by LIGO, the imaging of the black hole in M87 by the Event Horizon Telescope, and high-precision astrometry of the Galactic Center at close to the event horizon scale by the GRAVITY experiment motivate the development of numerical source models that solve the equations of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD). Here we compare GRMHD solutions for the evolution of a magnetized accretion flow where turbulence is promoted by the magnetorotational instability from a set of nine GRMHD codes: Athena++, BHAC, Cosmos++, ECHO, H-AMR, iharm3D, HARM-Noble, IllinoisGRMHD, and KORAL. Agreement among the codes improves as resolution increases, as measured by a consistently applied, specially developed set of code performance metrics. We conclude that the community of GRMHD codes is mature, capable, and consistent on these test problems.
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is a very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) array that comprises millimeter-and submillimeter-wavelength telescopes separated by distances comparable to the diameter of the Earth. At a nominal operating wavelength of ∼1.3 mm, EHT angular resolution (λ/D) is ∼25 μas, which is sufficient to resolve nearby supermassive black hole candidates on spatial and temporal scales that correspond to their event horizons. With this capability, the EHT scientific goals are to probe general relativistic effects in the strong-field regime and to study accretion and relativistic jet formation near the black hole boundary. In this Letter we describe the system design of the EHT, detail the technology and instrumentation that enable observations, and provide measures of its performance. Meeting the EHT science objectives has required several key developments that have facilitated the robust extension of the VLBI technique to EHT observing wavelengths and the production of instrumentation that can be deployed on a heterogeneous array of existing telescopes and facilities. To meet sensitivity requirements, high-bandwidth digital systems were developed that process data at rates of 64gigabit s −1 , exceeding those of currently operating cm-wavelength VLBI arrays by more than an order of magnitude. Associated improvements include the development of phasing systems at array facilities, new receiver installation at several sites, and the deployment of hydrogen maser frequency standards to ensure coherent data capture across the array. These efforts led to the coordination and execution of the first Global EHT observations in 2017 April, and to event-horizon-scale imaging of the supermassive black hole candidate in M87.
We present the results of extensive multi-frequency monitoring of the radio galaxy 3C 120 between 2002 and 2007 at X-ray (2-10 keV), optical (R and V band), and radio (14.5 and 37 GHz) wave bands, as well as imaging with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) at 43 GHz. Over the 5 yr of observation, significant dips in the X-ray light curve are followed by ejections of bright superluminal knots in the VLBA images. Consistent with this, the X-ray flux and 37 GHz flux are anti-correlated with X-ray leading the radio variations. Furthermore, the total radiative output of a radio flare is related to the equivalent width of the corresponding X-ray dip. This implies that, in this radio galaxy, the radiative state of accretion disk plus corona system, where the X-rays are produced, has a direct effect on the events in the jet, where the radio emission originates. The X-ray power spectral density of 3C 120 shows a break, with steeper slope at shorter timescale and the break timescale is commensurate with the mass of the central black hole based on observations of Seyfert galaxies and black hole X-ray binaries. These findings provide support for the paradigm that black hole X-ray binaries and both radio-loud and radio-quiet active galactic nuclei are fundamentally similar systems, with characteristic time and size scales linearly proportional to the mass of the central black hole. The X-ray and optical variations are strongly correlated in 3C 120, which implies that the optical emission in this object arises from the same general region as the X-rays, i.e., in the accretion diskcorona system. We numerically model multi-wavelength light curves of 3C 120 from such a system with the optical-UV emission produced in the disk and the X-rays generated by scattering of thermal photons by hot electrons in the corona. From the comparison of the temporal properties of the model light curves to that of the observed variability, we constrain the physical size of the corona and the distances of the emitting regions from the central BH. In addition, we discus physical scenarios for the disk-jet connection that are consistent with our observations.
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