Near infrared flares of Sagittarius A*. Importance of near infrared polarimetry

Zamaninasab, M.; Eckart, A.; Witzel, G.; Dovciak, M.; Karas, V.; Schödel, R.; Gießübel, R.; Bremer, M.; García-Marín, M.; Kunneriath, D.; Mužić, K.; Nishiyama, S.; Sabha, N.; Straubmeier, C.; Zensus, A.
Astronomy and Astrophysics, Volume 510, id.A3


Context. We report on the results of new simulations of near-infrared (NIR) observations of the Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) counterpart associated with the super-massive black hole at the Galactic Center.
Aims: Our goal is to investigate and understand the physical processes behind the variability associated with the NIR flaring emission from Sgr A*.
Methods: The observations have been carried out using the NACO adaptive optics (AO) instrument at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope and CIAO NIR camera on the Subaru telescope (13 june 2004; 30 july 2005; 1 june 2006; 15 may 2007; 17 may 2007 and 28 may 2008). We used a model of synchrotron emission from relativistic electrons in the inner parts of an accretion disk. The relativistic simulations have been carried out using the Karas-Yaqoob (KY) ray-tracing code.
Results: We probe the existence of a correlation between the modulations of the observed flux density light curves and changes in polarimetric data. Furthermore, we confirm that the same correlation is also predicted by the hot spot model. Correlations between intensity and polarimetric parameters of the observed light curves as well as a comparison of predicted and observed light curve features through a pattern recognition algorithm result in the detection of a signature of orbiting matter under the influence of strong gravity. This pattern is detected statistically significant against randomly polarized red noise. Expected results from future observations of VLT interferometry like GRAVITY experiment are also discussed.
Conclusions: The observed correlations between flux modulations and changes in linear polarization degree and angle can be a sign that the NIR flares have properties that are not expected from purely random red-noise. We find that the geometric shape of the emission region plays a major role in the predictions of the model. From fully relativistic simulations of a spiral shape emitting region, we conclude that the observed swings of the polarization angle during NIR flares support the idea of compact orbiting spots instead of extended patterns. The effects of gravitational shearing, fast synchrotron cooling of the components and confusion from a variable accretion disk have been taken into account. Simulated centroids of NIR images lead us to the conclusion that a clear observation of the position wander of the center of NIR images with future infrared interferometers will prove the existence of orbiting hot spots in the vicinity of our Galactic super-massive black hole.