The persistent shadow of the supermassive black hole of M 87: I. Observations, calibration, imaging, and analysis*

The Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In April 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration reported the first-ever event-horizon-scale images of a black hole, resolving the central compact radio source in the giant elliptical galaxy M 87. These images reveal a ring with a southerly brightness distribution and a diameter of ∼42 μas, consistent with the predicted size and shape of a shadow produced by the gravitationally lensed emission around a supermassive black hole. These results were obtained as part of the April 2017 EHT observation campaign, using a global very long baseline interferometric radio array operating at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. Here, we present results based on the second EHT observing campaign, taking place in April 2018 with an improved array, wider frequency coverage, and increased bandwidth. In particular, the additional baselines provided by the Greenland telescope improved the coverage of the array. Multiyear EHT observations provide independent snapshots of the horizon-scale emission, allowing us to confirm the persistence, size, and shape of the black hole shadow, and constrain the intrinsic structural variability of the accretion flow. We have confirmed the presence of an asymmetric ring structure, brighter in the southwest, with a median diameter of 43.3-3.1+1.5 μas. The diameter of the 2018 ring is remarkably consistent with the diameter obtained from the previous 2017 observations. On the other hand, the position angle of the brightness asymmetry in 2018 is shifted by about 30 relative to 2017. The perennial persistence of the ring and its diameter robustly support the interpretation that the ring is formed by lensed emission surrounding a Kerr black hole with a mass ∼6.5× 109M. The significant change in the ring brightness asymmetry implies a spin axis that is more consistent with the position angle of the large-scale jet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA79
JournalAstronomy and astrophysics
Volume681
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024

Keywords

  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: active
  • Galaxies: individual: M 87
  • Galaxies: jets
  • Gravitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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