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Variability Timescale and Spectral Index of Sgr A* in the Near Infrared: Approximate Bayesian Computation Analysis of the Variability of the Closest Supermassive Black Hole

By G. Witzel, G. Martinez, J. Hora, S. P. Willner, M. R. Morris, C. Gammie, E. E. Becklin, M. L. N. Ashby, F. Baganoff, S. Carey, T. Do, G. G. Fazio, A. Ghez, W. J. Glaccum, D. Haggard, R. Herrero-Illana, J. Ingalls, R. Narayan and H. A. Smith


Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) is the variable radio, near-infrared (NIR), and X-ray source associated with accretion onto the Galactic center black hole. We present an analysis of the most comprehensive NIR variability dataset of Sgr A* to date: eight 24-hour epochs of continuous monitoring of Sgr A* at 4.5 $\mu$m with the IRAC instrument on the Spitzer Space Telescope, 93 epochs of 2.18 $\mu$m data from Naos Conica at the Very Large Telescope, and 30 epochs of 2.12 $\mu$m data from the NIRC2 camera at the Keck Observatory, in total 94,929 measurements. A new approximate Bayesian computation method for fitting the first-order structure function extracts information beyond current Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) methods of power spectral density (PSD) estimation. With a combined fit of the data of all three observatories, the characteristic coherence timescale of Sgr A* is $\tau_{b} = 243^{+82}_{-57}$ minutes ($90\%$ credible interval). The PSD has no detectable features on timescales down to 8.5 minutes ($95\%$ credible level), which is the ISCO orbital frequency for a dimensionless spin parameter $a = 0.92$. One light curve measured simultaneously at 2.12 and 4.5 $\mu$m during a low flux-density phase gave a spectral index $\alpha_s = 1.6 \pm 0.1$ ($F_\nu \propto \nu^{-\alpha_s}$). This value implies that the Sgr A* NIR color becomes bluer during higher flux-density phases. The probability densities of flux densities of the combined datasets are best fit by log-normal distributions. Based on these distributions, the Sgr A* spectral energy distribution is consistent with synchrotron radiation from a non-thermal electron population from below 20 GHz through the NIR.Comment: Accepted for publication in ApJ on May 30, 2018. A machine readable version of the light curve data is included in the journal's online publication. Version 2 includes proof correction

Topics: Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
Publisher: 'American Astronomical Society'
Year: 2018
DOI identifier: 10.3847/1538-4357/aace62
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