A Power-Law Break in the Near-Infrared Power Spectrum of the Galactic Center Black Hole

Meyer, L.; Do, T.; Ghez, A.; Morris, M. R.; Yelda, S.; Schödel, R.; Eckart, A.
The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 694, Issue 1, pp. L87-L91 (2009).


Proposed scaling relations of a characteristic timescale in the X-ray power spectral density of galactic and supermassive black holes (BHs) have been used to argue that the accretion process is the same for small and large BHs. Here, we report on the discovery of this timescale in the near-infrared (NIR) radiation of Sgr A*, the 4 × 106 M sun BH at the center of our Galaxy, which is the most extreme sub-Eddington source accessible to observations. Previous simultaneous monitoring campaigns established a correspondence between the X-ray and NIR regime and thus the variability timescales are likely identical for the two wavelengths. We combined Keck and Very Large Telescope data sets to achieve the necessary dense temporal coverage, and a time baseline of four years allows for a broad temporal frequency range. Comparison with Monte Carlo simulations is used to account for the irregular sampling. We find a characteristic timescale of 154+124 -87 minutes (errors mark the 90% confidence limits) which is inconsistent with a recently proposed scaling relation that uses bolometric luminosity and BH mass as parameters. However, our result fits the expected value if only linear scaling with BH mass is assumed. We suggest that the luminosity-mass-timescale relation applies only to BH systems in the soft state. In the hard state, which is characterized by lower luminosities and accretion rates, there is just linear mass scaling, linking Sgr A* to hard state stellar mass BHs.