Toward Microarcsecond Astrometry for the Innermost Wobbling Jet of the BL Lacertae Object OJ 287

Publication date: 
Main author: 
Cheng, Xiaopeng
IAA authors: 
Zhao, Guangyao-Yao
Cheng, Xiaopeng;Yang, Jun;Zhao, Guangyao-Yao;Sohn, Bong Won;Taehyun, Jung;Li, Xiaofeng
The Astrophysical Journal
Publication type: 
The BL Lacertae object OJ 287 is a very unusual quasar producing a wobbling radio jet and some double-peaked optical outbursts with a possible period of about 12 yr for more than one century. This variability is widely explained by models of binary supermassive black holes (SMBHs) or precessing jets/disks from a single SMBH. To enable an independent and nearly bias-free investigation on these possible scenarios, we explored the feasibility of extremely high-precision differential astrometry on its innermost restless jet at millimeter wavelengths. Through revisiting some existing radio surveys and very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) data at frequencies from 1.4 to 15.4 GHz and performing new Very Long Baseline Array observations at 43.2 GHz, we find that the radio source J0854+1959, 7.'1 apart from OJ 287 and with no clearly seen optical and infrared counterparts, could provide a nearly ideal reference point to track the complicated jet activity of OJ 287. The source J0854+1959 has a stable GHz-peaked radio spectrum and shows a jet structure consisting of two discrete, milliarcsecond-scale-compact and steep-spectrum components and showing no proper motion over about 8 yr. The stable VLBI structure can be interpreted by an episodic, optically thin, and one-sided jet. With respect to its 4.1 mJy peak feature at 43.2 GHz, we have achieved an astrometric precision at the state-of-art level, about 10 μas. These results indicate that future VLBI astrometry on OJ 287 could allow us to accurately locate its jet apex and activity boundary, align its restless jet structure over decades without significant systematic bias, and probe various astrophysical scenarios.
ADS Bibcode: 
Supermassive black holes;Very long baseline interferometry;Radio jets;Radio continuum emission;1663;1769;1347;1340;Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena;Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies