Radio synchrotron emission from a bow shock around the gas cloud g2 heading toward the galactic center

Ramesh Narayan, Feryal Özel, Lorenzo Sironi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


A dense ionized cloud of gas has been recently discovered to be moving directly toward the supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, at the Galactic center. In 2013 June, at the pericenter of its highly eccentric orbit, the cloud will be approximately 3100 Schwarzschild radii from the black hole and will move supersonically through the ambient hot gas with a velocity of vp ≈5400kms-1. A bow shock is likely to form in front of the cloud and could accelerate electrons to relativistic energies. We estimate via particle-in-cell simulations the energy distribution of the accelerated electrons and show that the non-thermal synchrotron emission from these electrons might exceed the quiescent radio emission from Sgr A* by a factor of several. The enhanced radio emission should be detectable at GHz and higher frequencies around the time of pericentric passage and in the following months. The bow shock emission is expected to be displaced from the quiescent radio emission of Sgr A* by 33 mas. Interferometric observations could resolve potential changes in the radio image of Sgr A* at wavelengths ≲ 6cm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL20
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


  • Galaxy: center
  • accretion, accretion disks
  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: active

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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