First M87 Event Horizon Telescope Results. IX. Detection of Near-horizon Circular Polarization

Venkatessh Ramakrishnan, Tuomas Savolainen, Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

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Abstract

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) observations have revealed a bright ring of emission around the supermassive black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy. EHT images in linear polarization have further identified a coherent spiral pattern around the black hole, produced from ordered magnetic fields threading the emitting plasma. Here we present the first analysis of circular polarization using EHT data, acquired in 2017, which can potentially provide additional insights into the magnetic fields and plasma composition near the black hole. Interferometric closure quantities provide convincing evidence for the presence of circularly polarized emission on event-horizon scales. We produce images of the circular polarization using both traditional and newly developed methods. All methods find a moderate level of resolved circular polarization across the image (〈|v|〉 < 3.7%), consistent with the low image-integrated circular polarization fraction measured by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (|v int| < 1%). Despite this broad agreement, the methods show substantial variation in the morphology of the circularly polarized emission, indicating that our conclusions are strongly dependent on the imaging assumptions because of the limited baseline coverage, uncertain telescope gain calibration, and weakly polarized signal. We include this upper limit in an updated comparison to general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulation models. This analysis reinforces the previously reported preference for magnetically arrested accretion flow models.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL20
Pages (from-to)L20
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Volume957
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Polarimetry
  • Galaxies
  • Supermassive black holes
  • Very long baseline interferometry
  • Low-luminosity active galactic nuclei
  • Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
  • Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies

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