Volume 638, June 2020
|Number of page(s)||12|
|Section||Galactic structure, stellar clusters and populations|
|Published online||29 May 2020|
The flux distribution of Sgr A*
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Giessenbachstr. 1, 85748 Garching bei Muenchen, Germany
2 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Université PSL, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université de Paris, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
3 Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy, Königsstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
4 1. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
5 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
6 Universidade de Lisboa – Faculdade de Ciências, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
7 Faculdade de Engenharia, Universidade do Porto, Rua Dr. Roberto Frias, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal
8 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
9 European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
10 Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
11 Sterrewacht Leiden, Leiden University, Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
12 Departments of Physics and Astronomy, Le Conte Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
13 CENTRA – Centro de Astrofísica e Gravitação, IST, Universidade de Lisboa, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal
14 Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences, JILA, University of Colorado, Duane Physics Bldg., 2000 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
15 INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Via E. Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate, LC, Italy
16 Department of Particle Physics & Astrophysics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
17 Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, UK
Accepted: 7 April 2020
The Galactic center black hole Sagittarius A* is a variable near-infrared (NIR) source that exhibits bright flux excursions called flares. When flux from Sgr A* is detected, the light curve has been shown to exhibit red noise characteristics and the distribution of flux densities is non-linear, non-Gaussian, and skewed to higher flux densities. However, the low-flux density turnover of the flux distribution is below the sensitivity of current single-aperture telescopes. For this reason, the median NIR flux has only been inferred indirectly from model fitting, but it has not been directly measured. In order to explore the lowest flux ranges, to measure the median flux density, and to test if the previously proposed flux distributions fit the data, we use the unprecedented resolution of the GRAVITY instrument at the VLTI. We obtain light curves using interferometric model fitting and coherent flux measurements. Our light curves are unconfused, overcoming the confusion limit of previous photometric studies. We analyze the light curves using standard statistical methods and obtain the flux distribution. We find that the flux distribution of Sgr A* turns over at a median flux density of (1.1 ± 0.3) mJy. We measure the percentiles of the flux distribution and use them to constrain the NIR K-band spectral energy distribution. Furthermore, we find that the flux distribution is intrinsically right-skewed to higher flux density in log space. Flux densities below 0.1 mJy are hardly ever observed. In consequence, a single powerlaw or lognormal distribution does not suffice to describe the observed flux distribution in its entirety. However, if one takes into account a power law component at high flux densities, a lognormal distribution can describe the lower end of the observed flux distribution. We confirm the rms–flux relation for Sgr A* and find it to be linear for all flux densities in our observation. We conclude that Sgr A* has two states: the bulk of the emission is generated in a lognormal process with a well-defined median flux density and this quiescent emission is supplemented by sporadic flares that create the observed power law extension of the flux distribution.
Key words: Galaxy: center / black hole physics / accretion, accretion disks
GRAVITY is developed in a collaboration by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, LESIA of Observatoire de Paris/Université PSL/CNRS/Sorbonne Université/Université de Paris and IPAG of Université Grenoble Alpes/CNRS, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the University of Cologne, the CENTRA – Centro de Astrofisica e Gravitação, and the European Southern Observatory.
© GRAVITY Collaboration 2020
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Open Access funding provided by Max Planck Society.
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