Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc., 455, 2187-2199 (2016/January-2)
Going with the flow: using gas clouds to probe the accretion flow feeding Sgr A*.
McCOURT M. and MADIGAN A.-M.
Abstract (from CDS):
The massive black hole in our Galactic centre, Sgr A*, accretes only a small fraction of the gas available at its Bondi radius. The physical processes determining this accretion rate remain unknown, partly due to a lack of observational constraints on the gas at distances between ∼ 10 and ∼ 105 Schwarzschild radii (Rs) from the black hole. Recent infrared observations identify low-mass gas clouds, G1 and G2, moving on highly eccentric, nearly co-planar orbits through the accretion flow around Sgr A*. Although it is not yet clear whether these objects contain embedded stars, their extended gaseous envelopes evolve independently as gas clouds. In this paper we attempt to use these gas clouds to constrain the properties of the accretion flow at ∼ 103Rs. Assuming that G1 and G2 follow the same trajectory, we model the small differences in their orbital parameters as evolution resulting from interaction with the background flow. We find evolution consistent with the G-clouds originating in the clockwise disc. Our analysis enables the first unique determination of the rotation axis of the accretion flow: we localize the rotation axis to within 20°, finding an orientation consistent with the parsec-scale jet identified in X-ray observations and with the circumnuclear disc, a massive torus of molecular gas ∼ 1.5 pc from Sgr A*. This suggests that the gas in the accretion flow comes predominantly from the circumnuclear disc, rather than the winds of stars in the young clockwise disc. This result will be tested by the Event-Horizon Telescope within the next year. Our model also makes testable predictions for the orbital evolution of G1 and G2, falsifiable on a 5-10 year time-scale.
© 2015 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society (2015)
accretion, accretion discs - black hole physics - Galaxy: centre
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