Volume 558, October 2013
|Number of page(s)||9|
|Published online||23 October 2013|
Causal connection in parsec-scale relativistic jets: results from the MOJAVE VLBI survey
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie,
Auf dem Hügel 69,
2 Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, 98409 Nauchny, Crimea, Ukraine
3 Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, Pulkovskoe Chaussee 65/1, 196140 St. Petersburg, Russia
4 Astro Space Center of Lebedev Physical Institute, Profsoyuznaya 84/32, 117997 Moscow, Russia
Accepted: 8 September 2013
We report that active galactic nucleus (AGN) jets are causally connected on parsec scales, based on 15 GHz Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) data from a sample of 133 AGN jets. This result is achieved through a new method for measuring the product of the jet Lorentz factor and the intrinsic opening angle Γθj from measured apparent opening angles in flux density limited samples of AGN jets. The Γθj parameter is important for jet physics because it is related to the jet-frame sidewise expansion speed and causal connection between the jet edges and its symmetry axis. Most importantly, the standard model of jet production requires that the jet be causally connected with its symmetry axis, implying that Γθj ≲ 1. When we apply our method to the MOJAVE flux density limited sample of radio loud objects, we find Γθj ≈ 0.2, implying that AGN jets are causally connected. We also find evidence that AGN jets viewed very close to the line of sight effectively have smaller intrinsic opening angles compared with jets viewed more off-axis, which is consistent with Doppler beaming and a fast inner spine/slow outer sheath velocity field. Notably, gamma-ray burst (GRB) jets have a typical Γθj that is two orders of magnitude higher, suggesting that different physical mechanisms are at work in GRB jets compared to AGN jets. A useful application of our result is that a jet’s beaming parameters can be derived. Assuming Γθj is approximately constant in the AGN jet population, an individual jet’s Doppler factor and Lorentz factor (and therefore also its viewing angle) can be determined using two observable quantities: apparent jet opening angle and the apparent speed of jet components.
Key words: galaxies: active / quasars: general / galaxies: jets / BL Lacertae objects: general / gamma-ray burst: general
© ESO, 2013
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