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An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system

An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system
An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system
Relativistic plasma jets are observed in many accreting black holes. According to theory, coiled magnetic fields close to the black hole accelerate and collimate the plasma, leading to a jet being launched. Isolating emission from this acceleration and collimation zone is key to measuring its size and understanding jet formation physics. But this is challenging because emission from the jet base cannot be easily disentangled from other accreting components. Here, we show that rapid optical flux variations from a Galactic black-hole binary are delayed with respect to X-rays radiated from close to the black hole by ~0.1 seconds, and that this delayed signal appears together with a brightening radio jet. The origin of these sub-second optical variations has hitherto been controversial. Not only does our work strongly support a jet origin for the optical variations, it also sets a characteristic elevation of <~10^3 Schwarzschild radii for the main inner optical emission zone above the black hole, constraining both internal shock and magnetohydrodynamic models. Similarities with blazars suggest that jet structure and launching physics could potentially be unified under mass-invariant models. Two of the best-studied jetted black-hole binaries show very similar optical lags, so this size scale may be a defining feature of such systems.
Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
2397-3366
859-864
Gandhi, Poshak
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Bachetti, Matteo
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Dhillon, Vik S.
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Fender, Robert P.
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Hardy, Liam K.
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Harrison, Fiona A.
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Littlefair, Stuart P.
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Malzac, Julien
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Markoff, Sera
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Marsh, Tom R.
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Mooley, Kunal
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Stern, Daniel
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Tomsick, John A.
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Walton, Dominic J.
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Casella, Piergiorgio
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Vincentelli, Federico
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Altamirano, Diego
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Casares, Jorge
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Ceccobello, Chiara
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Charles, Phil A.
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Ferrigno, Carlo
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Hynes, Robert I.
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Knigge, Christian
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Kuulkers, Erik
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Pahari, Mayukh
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Rahoui, Farid
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Russell, David M.
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Shaw, Aarran W.
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Gandhi, Poshak
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Bachetti, Matteo
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Dhillon, Vik S.
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Fender, Robert P.
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Hardy, Liam K.
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Harrison, Fiona A.
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Littlefair, Stuart P.
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Malzac, Julien
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Markoff, Sera
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Marsh, Tom R.
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Mooley, Kunal
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Stern, Daniel
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Tomsick, John A.
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Walton, Dominic J.
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Casella, Piergiorgio
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Vincentelli, Federico
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Altamirano, Diego
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Casares, Jorge
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Ceccobello, Chiara
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Charles, Phil A.
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Ferrigno, Carlo
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Hynes, Robert I.
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Knigge, Christian
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Kuulkers, Erik
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Pahari, Mayukh
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Rahoui, Farid
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Russell, David M.
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Shaw, Aarran W.
ec30710a-0499-4f4f-9685-4510f75efe79

Gandhi, Poshak, Bachetti, Matteo, Dhillon, Vik S., Fender, Robert P., Hardy, Liam K., Harrison, Fiona A., Littlefair, Stuart P., Malzac, Julien, Markoff, Sera, Marsh, Tom R., Mooley, Kunal, Stern, Daniel, Tomsick, John A., Walton, Dominic J., Casella, Piergiorgio, Vincentelli, Federico, Altamirano, Diego, Casares, Jorge, Ceccobello, Chiara, Charles, Phil A., Ferrigno, Carlo, Hynes, Robert I., Knigge, Christian, Kuulkers, Erik, Pahari, Mayukh, Rahoui, Farid, Russell, David M. and Shaw, Aarran W. (2017) An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system. Nature Astronomy, 1, 859-864. (doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0273-3).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Relativistic plasma jets are observed in many accreting black holes. According to theory, coiled magnetic fields close to the black hole accelerate and collimate the plasma, leading to a jet being launched. Isolating emission from this acceleration and collimation zone is key to measuring its size and understanding jet formation physics. But this is challenging because emission from the jet base cannot be easily disentangled from other accreting components. Here, we show that rapid optical flux variations from a Galactic black-hole binary are delayed with respect to X-rays radiated from close to the black hole by ~0.1 seconds, and that this delayed signal appears together with a brightening radio jet. The origin of these sub-second optical variations has hitherto been controversial. Not only does our work strongly support a jet origin for the optical variations, it also sets a characteristic elevation of <~10^3 Schwarzschild radii for the main inner optical emission zone above the black hole, constraining both internal shock and magnetohydrodynamic models. Similarities with blazars suggest that jet structure and launching physics could potentially be unified under mass-invariant models. Two of the best-studied jetted black-hole binaries show very similar optical lags, so this size scale may be a defining feature of such systems.

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Accepted/In Press date: 7 September 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 30 October 2017
Keywords: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 415267
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/415267
ISSN: 2397-3366
PURE UUID: ea85c246-6395-4bca-a76b-11cd8299ff95
ORCID for Poshak Gandhi: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3105-2615
ORCID for Diego Altamirano: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3422-0074

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Date deposited: 06 Nov 2017 17:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 05:39

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Contributors

Author: Poshak Gandhi ORCID iD
Author: Matteo Bachetti
Author: Vik S. Dhillon
Author: Robert P. Fender
Author: Liam K. Hardy
Author: Fiona A. Harrison
Author: Stuart P. Littlefair
Author: Julien Malzac
Author: Sera Markoff
Author: Tom R. Marsh
Author: Kunal Mooley
Author: Daniel Stern
Author: John A. Tomsick
Author: Dominic J. Walton
Author: Piergiorgio Casella
Author: Federico Vincentelli
Author: Jorge Casares
Author: Chiara Ceccobello
Author: Phil A. Charles
Author: Carlo Ferrigno
Author: Robert I. Hynes
Author: Erik Kuulkers
Author: Mayukh Pahari
Author: Farid Rahoui
Author: David M. Russell
Author: Aarran W. Shaw

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