Volume 455 Number 07245 pp78-80

Event-horizon-scale structure in the supermassive black hole candidate at the Galactic Centre


Sheperd S. Doeleman, Jonathan Weintroub, Alan E. E. Rogers, Richard Plambeck, Robert Freund, Remo P. J. Tilanus, Per Friberg, Lucy M. Ziurys, James M. Moran, Brian Corey, Ken H. Young, Daniel L. Smythe, Michael Titus, Daniel P. Marrone, Roger J. Cappallo, Douglas C.-J. Bock, Geoffrey C. Bower, Richard Chamberlin, Gary R. Davis, Thomas P. Krichbaum, James Lamb, Holly Maness, Arthur E. Niell, Alan Roy, Peter Strittmatter, Daniel Werthimer, Alan R. Whitney & David Woody

The cores of most galaxies are thought to harbour supermassive black holes, which power galactic nuclei by converting the gravitational energy of accreting matter into radiation. Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the compact source of radio, infrared and X-ray emission at the centre of the Milky Way, is the closest example of this phenomenon, with an estimated black hole mass that is 4,000,000 times that of the Sun. A long-standing astronomical goal is to resolve structures in the innermost accretion flow surrounding Sgr A*, where strong gravitational fields will distort the appearance of radiation emitted near the black hole. Radio observations at wavelengths of 3.5 mm and 7 mm have detected intrinsic structure in Sgr A*, but the spatial resolution of observations at these wavelengths is limited by interstellar scattering. Here we report observations at a wavelength of 1.3 mm that set a size of 37 +16 / -10 microarcseconds on the intrinsic diameter of Sgr A*. This is less than the expected apparent size of the event horizon of the presumed black hole, suggesting that the bulk of Sgr A* emission may not be centred on the black hole, but arises in the surrounding accretion flow.

From the September 4th edition of Nature:

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