ALMA and VLA measurements of frequency-dependent time lags in Sagittarius A∗: Evidence for a relativistic outflow

Christiaan D. Brinkerink, Heino Falcke, Casey J. Law, Denis Barkats, Geoffrey C. Bower, Andreas Brunthaler, Charles Gammie, C. M. Violette Impellizzeri, Sera Markoff, Karl M. Menten, Monika Moscibrodzka, Alison Peck, Anthony P. Rushton, Reinhold Schaaf, Melvyn Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context. Radio and mm-wavelength observations of Sagittarius A∗ (Sgr A∗), the radio source associated with the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy, show that it behaves as a partially self-absorbed synchrotron-emitting source. The measured size of Sgr A∗ shows that the mm-wavelength emission comes from a small region and consists of the inner accretion flow and a possible collimated outflow. Existing observations of Sgr A∗ have revealed a time lag between light curves at 43 GHz and 22 GHz, which is consistent with a rapidly expanding plasma flow and supports the presence of a collimated outflow from the environment of an accreting black hole. Aims. Here we wish to measure simultaneous frequency-dependent time lags in the light curves of Sgr A∗ across a broad frequency range to constrain direction and speed of the radio-emitting plasma in the vicinity of the black hole. Methods. Light curves of Sgr A∗ were taken in May 2012 using ALMA at 100 GHz using the VLA at 48, 39, 37, 27, 25.5, and 19 GHz. As a result of elevation limits and the longitude difference between the stations, the usable overlap in the light curves is approximately four hours. Although Sgr A∗ was in a relatively quiet phase, the high sensitivity of ALMA and the VLA allowed us to detect and fit maxima of an observed minor flare where flux density varied by ~10%. Results. The fitted times of flux density maxima at frequencies from 100 GHz to 19 GHz, as well as a cross-correlation analysis, reveal a simple frequency-dependent time lag relation where maxima at higher frequencies lead those at lower frequencies. Taking the observed size-frequency relation of Sgr A∗ into account, these time lags suggest a moderately relativistic (lower estimates: 0.5c for two-sided, 0.77c for one-sided) collimated outflow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA41
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: jets
  • Galaxy: center
  • Radiation mechanisms: non-thermal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'ALMA and VLA measurements of frequency-dependent time lags in Sagittarius A∗: Evidence for a relativistic outflow'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this