"Compton showed us that two classes of active galaxies emitted gamma rays -- blazars and radio galaxies," said Luigi Foschini at Brera Observatory of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Merate, Italy. "With Fermi, we've found a third -- and opened a new window in the field."
In the Beam
Active galaxies are those with unusually bright centers that show evidence of particle acceleration to speeds approaching that of light itself. In 1943, astronomer Carl Seyfert described the first two types of active galaxy based on the width of spectral lines, a tell-tale sign of rapid gas motion in their cores. Today, astronomers recognize many additional classes, but they now believe these types represent the same essential phenomenon seen at different viewing angles.
At the center of each active galaxy sits a feeding black hole weighing upwards of a million times the sun's mass. Through processes not yet understood, some of the matter headed for the black hole blasts outward in fast, oppositely directed particle jets. For the most luminous active-galaxy classes -- blazars -- astronomers are looking right down the particle beam.
Using Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT), Foschini and his colleagues detected gamma rays from a Seyfert 1 galaxy cataloged as PMN J0948+0022, which lies 5.5 billion light-years away in the constellation Sextans. Splitting the light from this source into its component colors shows a spectrum with narrow lines, which indicates slower gas motions and argues against the presence of particle jet.
"But, unlike ninety percent of narrow-line Seyfert 1 galaxies, PMN J0948 also produces strong and variable radio emission," said Gino Tosti, who leads the Fermi LAT science group studying active galaxies at the University and National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Perugia, Italy. "This suggested the galaxy was indeed producing such a jet."
"The gamma rays seen by Fermi's LAT seal the deal," said team member Gabriele Ghisellini, a theorist at Brera Observatory. "They confirm the existence of particle acceleration near the speed of light in these types of galaxies." The findings will appear in the July 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
"We are sifting through Fermi LAT data for gamma rays from more sources of this type," Foschini said. "And we've begun a multiwavelength campaign to monitor PMN J0948 across the spectrum, from radio to gamma rays."
Another case where Fermi sees something new involves NGC 1275, a massive Seyfert galaxy much closer to home. Also known as Perseus A, one of the sky's loudest radio sources, NGC 1275 lies at the center of the Perseus cluster of galaxies about 225 million light-years away.
The Compton observatory's high-energy EGRET instrument never detected gamma rays from NGC 1275, although it was detected by another instrument sensitive to lower-energy gamma rays. But Fermi's LAT clearly shows the galaxy to be a gamma-ray source at the higher energies for which EGRET was designed. "Fermi sees this galaxy shining with gamma rays at a flux about seven times higher than the upper limit of EGRET," said Jun Kataoka at Waseda University in Tokyo. "If NGC 1275 had been this bright when EGRET was operating, it would have been seen."
This change in the galaxy's output suggests that its particle beam was either inactive or much weaker a decade ago. Such changes clue astronomers into the size of the emitting region. "The gamma rays in NGC 1275 must arise from a source no more than two light-years across," said Teddy Cheung at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "That means we're seeing radiation from the heart of the galaxy -- near its black hole -- as opposed to emission by hot gas throughout the cluster."
The Fermi team plans to monitor the galaxy to watch for further changes. The results of the study will appear in the July 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership mission, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.
Francis Reddy | EurekAlert!
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy