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Observational Evidence for a Dense Ambient Medium Shaping the Jet in 3C 84

Jongho ParkMotoki KinoHiroshi Nagai ...+3 Jeffrey A. Hodgson
Nov 2023
Highly collimated relativistic jets are a defining feature of certain active galactic nuclei (AGN), yet their formation mechanism remains elusive. Previous observations and theoretical models have proposed that the ambient medium surrounding the jets could exert pressure, playing a crucial role in shaping the jets. However, direct observational confirmation of such a medium has been lacking. In this study, we present very long baseline interferometric (VLBI) observations of 3C 84 (NGC 1275), located at the center of the Perseus Cluster. Through monitoring observations with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) at 43 GHz, a jet knot was detected to have been ejected from the sub-parsec scale core in the late 2010s. Intriguingly, this knot propagated in a direction significantly offset from the parsec-scale jet direction. To delve deeper into the matter, we employ follow-up VLBA 43 GHz observations, tracing the knot's trajectory until the end of 2022. We discovered that the knot abruptly changed its trajectory in the early 2020s, realigning itself with the parsec-scale jet direction. Additionally, we present results from an observation of 3C 84 with the Global VLBI Alliance (GVA) at 22 GHz, conducted near the monitoring period. By jointly analyzing the GVA 22 GHz image with a VLBA 43 GHz image observed about one week apart, we generated a spectral index map, revealing an inverted spectrum region near the edge of the jet where the knot experienced deflection. These findings suggest the presence of a dense, cold ambient medium characterized by an electron density exceeding $\sim10^5\ {\rm cm^{-3}}$, which guides the jet's propagation on parsec scales and significantly contributes to the overall shaping of the jet.
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