A new view on the M 87 jet origin: Turbulent loading leading to large-scale episodic wiggling
1 Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
3 I. Physikalisches Institut der Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
4 Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Boční II 1401, 14131 Prague, Czech Republic
Received: 4 August 2016
Accepted: 19 January 2017
Context. The nearby, giant radio galaxy M 87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for a bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large BH mass, M 87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. Many kinematic studies have been performed to determine the proper motions in the jet. Despite M 87 providing all proofs of being an active BH, the apparent jet speed remained puzzling, because proper motion measurements between 15 and 43 GHz for the same region of 1–10 mas core distance provided largely discrepant results. This source is a prime object to be studied in exquisite detail with the upcoming Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observations because it promises to allow a direct view on the jet launching process itself.
Aims. We aim to decipher some of the kinematic puzzles in the pc-scale jet with the analysis we present here.
Methods. We re-modeled and re-analyzed 31 VLBA observations at 15 GHz obtained within the MOJAVE program. The data span a time range between Jul. 1995 and May 2011. We performed a detailed investigation of the pc-scale jet kinematics on different timescales, the shortest periods between the observations beeing 10 and 80 days, and in different jet modes, making use of VLBA observations. In addition, we studied the jet ridge line behavior as a function of time. Special care was taken to analyze the region close to the 15 GHz core, and the dynamics and distribution of newly emerging jet features in the jet.
Results. We find an indication for apparent superluminal motion in the jet. Moreover, we present evidence for acceleration between 0.5 and 10 mas of core separation. The data suggest that the central part of M 87 at 15 GHz seems to be rotating. Jet components and counter-jet components are ejected in different directions under varying angles, explaining the impression of a broad opening angle. In this paper we present evidence for two different operating modes of the jet of M 87. The jet switches between two phases: i) the jet ridge line is at least double or the jet axis is displaced vertically, and ii) an unperturbed phase where the jet ridge line remains almost straight but is smoothly curved and the jet components are aligned along a classical jet axis. The mode change occurs every couple of years. Between the two operating modes, a transition phase is visible.
Conclusions. The M 87 jet visible at 15 GHz probes a different physical zone compared to the standard blazar-zone we tend to see in AGN jets. The most likely scenario explaining the observed phenomena is a turbulent mass loading into the jet, most probably due to local, fast reconnection processes driven by turbulence of a tangled magnetic field, which is either generated in the accretion disk or the disk corona. In addition, on large scales, a global magnetic structure is required to channel the turbulent flow into what evolves into a large-scale jet. Large-scale jet instabilities may explain the curved pattern of the observed jet flow.
Key words: techniques: interferometric / galaxies: active / galaxies: jets
© ESO, 2017