Journal Article

Kinematics of the parsec-scale radio jet in 3C 48

T. An, X. Y. Hong, M. J. Hardcastle, D. M. Worrall, T. Venturi, T. J. Pearson, Z.-Q. Shen, W. Zhao and W. X. Feng

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 402, issue 1, pages 87-104
Published in print February 2010 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2009.15899.x
Kinematics of the parsec-scale radio jet in 3C 48

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We present results on the compact steep-spectrum quasar 3C 48 from observations with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN) and the European Very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) Network (EVN) at multiple radio frequencies. In the 1.5-GHz VLBI images, the radio jet is characterized by a series of bright knots. The active nucleus is embedded in the southernmost VLBI component A, which is further resolved into two sub-components A1 and A2 at 4.8 and 8.3 GHz, respectively. A1 shows a flat spectrum and A2 shows a steep spectrum. The most strongly polarized VLBI components are located at component C ∼ 0.25 arcsec north of the core, where the jet starts to bend to the north-east. The polarization angles at C show gradual changes across the jet width at all observed frequencies, indicative of a gradient in the emission-weighted intrinsic polarization angle across the jet and possibly a systematic gradient in the rotation measure; moreover, the percentage of polarization increases near the curvature at C, likely consistent with the presence of a local jet–interstellar-medium interaction and/or changing magnetic-field directions. The hot spot B shows a higher rotation measure, and has no detected proper motion. These facts provide some evidence for a stationary shock in the vicinity of B. Comparison of the present VLBI observations with those made 8.43 yr ago suggests a significant northward motion for A2 with an apparent transverse velocity βapp= 3.7 ± 0.4c. The apparent superluminal motion suggests that the relativistic jet plasma moves at a velocity of ≳0.96c if the jet is viewed at an inclination angle less than 20°. A simple precessing jet model and a hydrodynamical isothermal jet model with helical-mode Kelvin–Helmholtz instabilities are used to fit the oscillatory jet trajectory of 3C 48 defined by the bright knots.

Keywords: galaxies: active; galaxies: jets; galaxies: kinematics and dynamics; quasars: individual: 3C 48

Journal Article.  13899 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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