2 Summary This Activity should enable you to: Appreciate the challenges to observing the centre of our Galaxy.Know the observing tools which do penetrate to the Galactic centre.Learn of the objects currently observed at the Galactic centre.AAT Absorbing material blocking visual observation of the Galactic centre
3 Recent historyThe story of the study of the central regions of our Milky Way Galaxy parallels:the progress in observation at wavelengths other than visual -infrared radio X-ray gamma raythe progress in telescopes using these wavelengths higher resolutions and orbiting telescopes.the discovery of phenomena associated with the central regions of other galaxies black holes jetsLet’s briefly see some examples of these, in order to see what features we might expect to find at the centre of our galaxy.
4 High resolution of galactic centres Even in visible light, the Hubble Space Telescope resolved a bright split source at the centre of the M31 galaxy in Andromeda.180,000 light yearsNOAOGround view of M31 core2,000 light years40 light yearsHST view of M31 nucleus
5 HST Black Hole ‘images’ A black hole itself, by definition, cannot be imaged.Radiation, emitted by gas and dust orbiting a massive object at high speed, is detectable.Estimation of the rotation speed and the orbit radius leads (by Kepler’s 3rd Law) to the central mass and an upper limit to its diameter.The HST has imaged several objects meeting black hole* criteria; this dramatic image is from an object at the centre of galaxy NGC4261.*Click here to find out about black holes
6 HST Spectrograph black hole evidence UKS 024 The Virgo clusterM84HST M84 nucleusslitThe HST imaged a spectrum of the core of the M84 galaxy (May 1997).Model: Material orbiting a central object - with higher velocities toward centreslitHST Imaging SpectrographDoppler shift of central lineFinding: Orbital speeds of 400 km/sec within 26 light years of the central object.
7 M84 central object massCompute the mass using the form of Kepler’s 3rd law*:d3/P2 = M + mWhere mass m (solar masses) orbits mass M at a distance d (astronomical units) in a period of P (years).Use the M84 finding of orbital speeds of 400 km/sec within 26 light years of the central object.In the above units, d=1,641,000 AU and P=122,523 years.Assuming m can be neglected compared with M, d3/P2 gives M=294 million solar masses!The escape velocity for such a massive object, of upper size limit set by HST resolution, is greater than c, the velocity of light. By definition, a black hole is inferred.*Click here to revise Kepler’s 3rd Law
8 Jets from Galactic Nuclei Some galaxies show jets of material emitted in opposite directions from their nuclei.Cygnus A radio source VLAThis galaxy's nucleus is the small point in the centre of the image. These jets impact material surrounding the galaxy, giving rise to the giant "lobes" of radio emission seen in this image. The energy required to produce these jets is believed to be due to the influence of a black hole millions of times more massive than the Sun.
9 Visible light is reduced by 28 magnitudes. Back to our own GalaxyWith our appetite whetted by what may lurk at our Galaxy’s centre, what are the observational difficulties involved?The previous Activity showed the difficulty in identifying spiral arms in our own Galaxy, though they are clearly evident in external galaxies.The difficulty is worse when our target is the very nucleus of our Galaxy - some 8Kpc away across the densest regions of absorbing gas and dust in the Galactic plane.Visible light is reduced by 28 magnitudes.As with infrared night vision and for observations through fog or dust on Earth, other wavelengths are needed for astronomy of the Galactic centre.
10 Radiation reaching us from the centre Astronomy now utilizes a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum.511 keV gamma rays detected from Galactic nucleus< 0.6nm X-rays detected from central region by orbiting Einstein X-Ray Observatory2.2mm infrared enables detection of central old Population I K and M giant stars (temperature ~4000oK)21 cm radio detects H I regions >100pc from centre
11 Instruments A selection of ground based and satellite telescopes Australia TelescopeVery Large ArrayNRAO 12m millimetre telescope at Kitt PeakEinstein X-Ray satelliteCOBE SatelliteParkes 64m
12 AbbreviationsFrom this point on, certain terminology (eg ‘centre’) will save repetition of full terms such as ‘the Galactic centre’.Bulge central ~3kpc diameter region of the Galaxy.Central region - central ~300pc diameter region.Centre ~20pc diameter centre of Galaxy.Nucleus ~3 parsec diameter core of Galaxy.The region of the electromagnetic spectrum used for an observation will appear simply as 21cm, 2.2mm, <0.6nm etc
13 Multi wave-length images Radio (0.4 GHz*)Multi wave-length imagesAtomic hydrogenThe websiteRadio (2.7 GHz*)Molecular hydrogennicely presents multi- wavelength panoramic views along the plane of the Milky Way, of which just 60o either side of the centre (l=0o) are reproduced here.The website includes references to authors, observations and background material.InfraredNear InfraredVisualX-RayGamma RayLocation key*Click here to be reminded about GHz
14 Radio (0.4 GHz*)HighlightsAtomic HydrogenNote the hopelessness of visual observations of the Galactic centre.Note the high central intensities in:near infrared0.4GHz radiogamma rayNote the quiet centre for atomic hydrogen.Radio (2.7 GHz)Molecular H2InfraredNear InfraredVisualX-RayGamma RayLocation key
15 The Galactic BulgeAs we journey to the centre of the Galaxy, we take a quick glance at its central bulge.The bulge, about 3kpc diameter, comprises heavy element enriched stars, especially type M giants, Pop I K giants, and a few metal rich RR Lyrae stars*.IRAS 12mm shows strong sources from asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars in the H-R diagram*.Apart from the very centre, the rotation curve* shows that bulge stars rotate with similar periods (like a solid body) with higher velocities for larger orbits about the centre.The derived bulge mass is some 10 billion solar masses.* Click here to revise H-R diagrams* Click here to find out about RR Lyrae stars*we met rotation curves in the Activity on Galactic Rotation
16 The inner Galactic Bulge The high central stellar density affects the velocity curve.2.2mm from old Pop I K and M giants indicates a high central stellar density.1061071091010Radius (pc)108Enclosed solar masses21cmMechanical energy exchange from close stellar encounters should lead to a close-to-flat rotation curve, with enclosed mass proportional to orbit radius.This is confirmed, from various indicators, down to r = 2pc.Closer in, velocities increase significantly, suggesting ~4x106solar masses in the inner 0.5pc.
17 Radio Map of Central Region Continuous radio emission from the Galactic central region shows a string of radio sources in the galactic plane.The strongest source is Sagittarius A (Sgr A), followed, like the split source in M31, by nearby Sgr B.+15’0o00’-15’latitudeGalactic equatorCentre of GalaxyB1B2CSagittarius BSagittarius Alongitude0o00’0o30’1o00’359o30’GalacticThis region is about 270x90 parsecs.
18 Sources of energyAs we introduce each type of source detected in the Galactic centre region, we will consider what it might consist of - from the point of view of energy production or mass involved (in solar units).For example, some of the sources in the last frame show characteristics of HII regions.The O and B stars necessary to keep these regions ionized and emitting radiation, is estimated to be equivalent to about five million Suns (close to that from velocity measures). To a first approximation this is about 7 times the density of stars in the solar neighbourhood … Night skies would be rather bright!
19 Clues to magnetic fields Unusual filamentary features appear near Sgr A.20cm radiation produced by synchrotron radiation* reveals filaments which stretch for 20pc, at right angles to the galactic plane, and then make an almost right-angle turn.Sgr Asimulated imageFrom the strength and polarization of the radiation, magnetic fields would be two to four orders of magnitude weaker than the Earth’s magnetic field.*Click here to find out about synchrotron radiation
20 High resolution radio information We now turn to high resolution radio mapping of the Galactic centre, for which the Very Large Array (VLA) - introduced in the next frame - has been at the forefront.
21 The Very Large Array (VLA) A high resolution radio interferometer.NRAO Photo by Dave FinleyNear Socorro, New Mexico, the VLA consists of 27 antennas arranged in a huge Y pattern up to 36km across. Each antenna is 25 meters in diameter. They are combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km across, with the sensitivity of a dish 130 meters in diameter. At its highest frequency, 43GHz, its resolution is 0.04” arc.Internet:
22 The VLA resolves Sagittarius A This image, from 6cm and 20cm radiation, resolves detail down to ~2” arc. It shows the following components:Sgr East: A non-thermal shell-like structure, usually interpreted as a supernova remnant.RADecSgr A EastSgr A WestSgr West: A spiral shaped thermal source, like an HII region.Sgr A*Within Sgr West is a non-thermal point source <0.1” diameter, given the name Sgr A* --pronounced Sadge-A-Star
23 -29o00’-28o59’-28o58’NEDecSagittarius A WestDust and gas diskGalactic equatorHere we show the various named regions of this complex.1 parsecNorthern armWestern arcBackgroundEastern arm2cm microwaveSgr A*Barfar infrared mmDoppler shifts, from NeII infrared emission at 12.8mm, reveal high velocities in the ‘bar’ region.RA 17h42m31s s s sDiagram indicative only
24 The Sgr A West mini-spiral and Sgr A* Rotation velocities increase toward the site of Sgr A*.The various ‘arms’ of the mini-spiral pattern are as labelled.Sgr A*1 parsecNorthern armThe general nature of their radial velocity (recession, approach) is indicated (up to ~130km/sec).Western arcEastern armBarThe next frame gives a mass estimate from the higher velocities within the ‘bar’ region.The Sgr A* radio luminosity is ~2x1027 W from within a diameter of less than 20AU.
25 Mass estimate within Sgr A* A gas cloud r=0.3pc from the centre has a measured velocity of v=260km/sec. If this is orbiting a central mass, calculate that mass.Use either M=v2r/G in standard units and work through to a result in solar masses, orKepler’s law, r3/P2=M, which gives M in solar masses if we first calculate distance r in AU and period P in years.In this case r=0.3 parsecs or ~61679 AU and P=7089 years, leading to M = 4.7 million solar masses!Could Sgr A* be a massive black hole?The Schwarzschild radius (within which light cannot escape) is Rs=2GM/c2 = 0.09AUThis is well below the current resolution limit.
26 X-ray images of the Galactic nuclear region X-ray emissionTime variable X-rays have been detected from the region of Sgr A West including Sgr A*.The speed of light limits the diameter d of an object from which time fluctuations Dt of radiation are observed: d<cDtThe upper limit for the Sgr A West source is 0.1pc.X-ray images of the Galactic nuclear regionOne X-ray mechanism involves accretion disks around dense stars - white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes - another hint to the nature of Sgr A*.
27 Gamma raysGamma rays at 511 keV have been observed from a source less than 0.3pc diameter almost coincident with the Galactic centre.511keV, the rest mass energy of an electron, is a signature of electron-positron annihilation.Since it is believed black holes can produce positrons in the space around them, this seems to support a black hole as a candidate for Sgr A*.However the enormous 511keV luminosity of about 5x104 times the solar luminosity implies a smaller black hole (~500 solar masses) than that envisioned for the Galactic centre.
28 VLA l=90cm - central region, wide field NRAOImage: Kassim, LaRosa, Lazio & Hyman 1999Compare with the earlier Radio Map.Note the shell-like structure of super-novae remnants (SNR’s).Note the fine ‘thread’s at high angles to the Galactic plane and extending for tens of parsecs.
29 Supernovae activityEven higher energy 1.8MeV gamma rays have been detected.The 1.8MeV line is produced by the decay of 26Al to 26Mg.26Al has a half-life of 716,000 years and is only produced in small amounts in supernovae & novae explosionsand possibly Wolf-Rayet * stars.The detected presence of ~5 solar masses of 26Al suggests that a large number of supernovae have occurred in the Galactic centre over the last million years.It certainly appears to be an active environment!*Click here to find out about Wolf-Rayet stars
30 The importance of Galactic centre studies Other galaxies also appear to have black holes at their centres. Some are relatively quiet while others have extremely active nuclei.Back to our own Galaxy, the rotational dynamics, mass distribution and energy processes of the overall Galaxy may lead to the production of high mass density (including black hole(s) at the centre, orif supermassive black holes were produced at the galaxy’s embrionic stage they may in some way power other features of the Galaxy - even spiral arms.
31 Summary i) Some of the wavelengths and sources we’ve visited. Wavelength Telescope Region Source radio nucleus Sgr A and a string of sources; HII and SNR characteristics IR/Radio Nucleus metal-rich giants, low mass dwarfs mm Dust at Sgr A heated by OB stars 12-20mM centre Dust heated by PopI and O stars 12.8mm nucleus NeII emission; Doppler shift km/sec within 1.5pc of centre 12mm IRAS Bulge AGB stars 2.2mm centre PopI K giants <0.6 nm X-ray Einstein <100pc weak sources in weaker halo ~10-3 nm g-ray nucleus <0.3pc size, at or near nucleus
32 Summary ii)All the observations point to massive objects within a very small radius of the Galactic centre.They may take the form of:a) a massive black hole of ~4x106 solar masses,b) a very dense star cluster of ~106 solar masses within 2pc of the centre.Additional support for the black hole scenario comes from similar evidence in other galaxies.
34 Image CreditsHubble Space Telescope images indexed by subject:ESO (European Southern Observatory) VLT images:NRAO VLA 90cm radio image of Galactic centre regionNRAO VLA site imagesVLA: Cygnus ACOBE and Einstein satellite pictures:VLA
35 Hit the Esc key (escape) to return to the Index Page The origin of the Milky Way is the subject of the next Activities.Hit the Esc key (escape) to return to the Index Page
37 Frequencies and wavelength backgroundFrequencies and wavelengthExplanationThe previous frame showed radio observations expressed in GHz (GigaHertz or 109 cycles per second)Since the days of tinkering with valves, radio astronomers often refer to frequencies (f) rather than wavelengths (l).The frequency of passing wavecrests = speed of wave / wavelengthThus: f=c/l or l=c/f c=3x105 km/secWhat wavelengths would 2.7Ghz and 0.4 GHz be?2.7GHz: l = 3x105/(2.7x109) = 1.11x10-4 km = 11.1 cm0.4GHz: l = 3x105/(0.4x109) = 7.5 x10-4 km = 75 cmWhat frequency is the 21cm hydrogen line?f = 3x105/(.21x10-3) = 1.428x109 = ~1.4 GHzClick here to return to the Activity
40 Introduction to Synchrotron Radiation backgroundIntroduction to Synchrotron RadiationThe following section is a brief introduction to thermal and non-thermal processes, and in particular, synchrotron radiation.
41 backgroundThermal RadiationConventionally, thermal radiation refers to black body radiation at a given temperature.In astrophysics the term thermal includes absorption, emission and scattering processes arising from any interactions between electrons and atoms or molecules in a hot medium - including:excitation/de-excitation1 within the atomionization/recombination2 to/from free electronsfree-free processes3 between electrons, photons and ions.132
42 Non-thermal radiation backgroundNon-thermal radiationInvolving physical processes not dependent on temperature. (Including the MASER process, not covered here.)Non-thermal processes include synchrotron radiation from electrons, moving at near light speeds, and spiralling along magnetic flux lines. The radiation is polarized and the process relativistic.Electrons (mass m, charge q) spiral, in magnetic field B, at angular frequency w=qB/(gmc)c = speed of lightv = electron velocity g =Click here to return to the Activity
45 About Wolf-Rayet Stars backgroundAlthough we feel that we know a lot about stellar evolution, (even if only through indirect evidence), there are still some fascinating stellar objects which are hard to explain.Wolf-Rayet stars are very hot (T~30,000 K), massive (perhaps 10 to 40 M) stars which are often found in binary systems (which we use to estimate their mass), are losing mass at very high rates, and exhibit strong, wide emission lines of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon and weak or nonexistent hydrogen lines.It is believed that the high rate of mass loss in these (probably) post-main-sequence stars has stripped them of most of their hydrogen envelopes, exposing nuclear processed material in inner layers near their cores.
46 and just before it undergoes a supernova explosion! backgroundIf indeed these stars turn out to be typically in binary systems, they may turn out to be the more massive and faster evolving partners. Theoretical models suggest that a Wolf-Rayet star in a binary system is just past its red supergiant stage, where much of its envelope has swollen up and spilled over onto its companion,and just before it undergoes a supernova explosion!However without more evidence, we can’t be sure exactly what these intriguing stars are.Back to the Activity
49 RR Lyrae StarsbackgroundRR Lyrae Variables are stars on a region of the H-R diagram called the “helium burning Horizontal Branch”TheHORIZONTALBRANCHAbsolute MagnitudeGiantsInstability StripLuminosity L/LAt these temperatures, even solids can flow.Temperature (K)…that also happen to fall within the “Instability Strip”, the region of the H-R diagram which contains variable stars.
50 backgroundThe great thing about RR Lyrae Variables is that they are bright and all at about the same absolute magnitudeThis is because RR Lyrae Variables all have about the same mass and are all at the same phase in their evolution.As long as we can find such stars their brightness immediately tells us their distance, and therefore the distance to the cluster they are in.We’ll spend some time studying the Earth, but in the process we’ll be developing concepts which we will apply to our study of the other Solar System planets.Back to the Activity
51 Back to the ActivityWe’ll spend some time studying the Earth, but in the process we’ll be developing concepts which we will apply to our study of the other Solar System planets.
53 backgroundH-R Diagrams-10 brightIn 1905 the Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung noticed that a graph of the absolute magnitudes of stars versus their colour showed a few very regular groupings.Absolute magnitudeA bit later on, Henry Russell in America noticed the same thing, although he used spectral type rather than colour.That’s why the diagrams you are about to study are called Hertzsprung-Russell Diagrams (H-R for short).+15 faintSpectral typeO5M8blueyellowred
54 Temperature versus Type backgroundTemperature versus TypeAbsolute magnitude-10 bright+15 faintSpectral typeO5M8Later on, when the link between spectral type and temperature was realised, H-R diagrams began to appear with temperature along the horizontal axis instead.Boring! Why have you suddenly gone all historical?Because we have to explain why temperature goes down along the horizontal axis of an H-R diagram: a long time ago, astronomers listed stars by colour, from blue (hot) to red (cool).40000temperature2500blue Colour redAhhhh.
55 H-R diagrams and spectral classes backgroundO B A F G K Mlow luminosity highWhite dwarfsRed dwarfsMain sequenceSuper-giantsGiantsWe’ll use this version of an H-R diagram to show how spectral classes appear in that format.
56 Looking for patternsbackgroundhigh temperature lowlow luminosity highHuge, cool stars appear in the top right, and small, hot stars tend to gather in the bottom left.But the rest of the stars lie somewhere along the main sequence.Mass increasingL increasingT increasingBack to the Activity
59 backgroundJohannes Kepler’s third law for planets: There is a fixed relationship between the cube of the radius (d) of a planet’s orbit and the square of its period (P) of orbit.G and 4p2 are constantsM is the mass of the SunMmradiusdperiod PIn other situations where objects are in orbit the law still applies, but if the mass m is not tiny compared to M then the formula becomesd3/P2 = M + mBack to the Activity
62 backgroundBlack HolesWhen a star more massive than 8 M reaches the end of its life, the star’s gravity is so strong that it collapses into an object of zero radius and infinite density - a black hole.The gravitational field of a black hole is so strong that even light cannot escape. For this reason, black holes are not directly observable.Back to the Activity