Journal Article

Performance of astrometric detection of a hotspot orbiting on the innermost stable circular orbit of the Galactic Centre black hole

F. H. Vincent, T. Paumard, G. Perrin, L. Mugnier, F. Eisenhauer and S. Gillessen

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 412, issue 4, pages 2653-2664
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online April 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.18084.x
Performance of astrometric detection of a hotspot orbiting on the innermost stable circular orbit of the Galactic Centre black hole

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The Galactic Central black hole Sgr A* exhibits outbursts of radiation in the near-infrared (so-called IR flares). One model of these events consists in a hotspot orbiting on the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO) of the hole. These outbursts can be used as a probe of the central gravitational potential. One main scientific goal of the second-generation VLTI instrument GRAVITY is to observe these flares astrometrically. Here, the astrometric precision of GRAVITY is investigated in the imaging mode, which consists in analysing the image computed from the interferometric data. The capability of the instrument to put in light the motion of a hotspot orbiting on the ISCO of our central black hole is then discussed. We find that GRAVITY’s astrometric precision for a single star in the imaging mode is smaller than the Schwarzschild radius of Sgr A*. The instrument can also demonstrate that a body orbiting on the last stable orbit of the black hole is indeed moving. It yields a typical size of the orbit, if the source is as bright as mK= 14. These results show that GRAVITY allows one to study the close environment of Sgr A*. Having access to the ISCO of the central massive black hole probably allows constraining general relativity in its strong regime. Moreover, if the hotspot model is appropriate, the black hole spin can be constrained.

Keywords: black hole physics; instrumentation: interferometers; astrometry; Galaxy: centre

Journal Article.  8250 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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