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Universe 2019, 5(9), 199;

Mapping the Narrow-Line Seyfert 1 Galaxy 1H 0323+342
INAF Brera Astronomical Observatory, 23807 Merate, Italy
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Padova, 35122 Padova, Italy
Finnish Centre for Astronomy with ESO (FINCA), 20014 Turku, Finland
Metsähovi Radio Observatory, Aalto University, 02540 Kylmälä, Finland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 August 2019 / Accepted: 12 September 2019 / Published: 14 September 2019


Taking advantage of the most recent measurements by means of high-resolution radio observations and other multiwavelength campaigns, it is possible to elaborate a detailed map of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 Galaxy 1H 0323 + 342 . This map will open the possibility of intriguing hypotheses about the generation of high-energy γ rays in the narrow-line region.
Seyfert galaxies; relativistic jets

1. Introduction

1H 0323 + 342 , also known as J 0324 + 3410 ( z = 0.063 1) is an active galactic nucleus (AGN) classified as jetted narrow-line Seyfert 1 Galaxy (jNLS1) [1], with a significant detection at high-energy γ rays [2]. It is the closest source of this type and, therefore, it offers a unique opportunity to dissect the AGN, as one milliarcsecond (mas) corresponds to 1.2 pc in a Λ CDM cosmology with H 0 = 70 km/s/Mpc, Ω Λ = 0.7 , Ω m = 0.3 . This means that the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) can probe the AGN on a parsec scale. Indeed, J 0324 + 3410 has been the target of many studies at high-resolution radio frequencies [3,4,5,6,7], and is currently under monitoring in the framework of the MOJAVE program2 [8]. It was found that the jet from J 0324 + 3410 is one sided with a change in shape at about 7 mas from the core, being parabolic close to the central black hole, and becoming conical as the distance increases [5,6,7]. This quasi-stationary feature is similar to HST-1 in M87, although the radial distance from the central singularity is 10 7 8 r g , two orders of magnitudes farther than HST-1 from M87 [5,6,7]. Both Hada [6] and Kovalev [7] proposed that one solution could be to have a greater mass for the central black hole in J 0324 + 3410 , of the order of 10 8 M as suggested by León-Tavares [9].
The aim of the present work is to review all the available information about the central mass black hole of J 0324 + 3410 , its surroundings and its jet, in order to obtain a consistent picture of this source.

2. Mass of the Central Black Hole

The estimate of the mass of the central black hole in narrow-line Seyfert 1 Galaxies is at the center of a long-standing debate (see [10] and references therein for the latest information). In the case of J 0324 + 3410 , the values are of the order of 10 7 M [1,2,11,12,13], with two exceptions [9,14]. The available values and adopted methods are summarized in Table 1.
The mass estimates through the fit of an accretion disk model is generally overestimated (e.g., Figure 6 in [15]), particularly when the jet contribution at infrared-to-ultraviolet frequencies is significant (e.g., see the case of J 0948 + 0022 , Figure 6 in [11]). However, this seems not to be the case for J 0324 + 3410 , as the disk is quite strong and often prominent over the continuum of the jet (cf. the spectral energy distribution in [2]). This is confirmed by the polarization measurements at optical wavelength, which are quite low ( 0.7 0.8 % in V filter, [16]), and the X-ray emission ( 0.3 10 keV) is generally consistent with a thermal Comptonization (photon index 2 ) from the corona. Only during the jet activity, there is a hard tail (photon index 1.4 ) with a break at a few keV (see Figure 1 in [17]; see also [18]). A rough estimate of the duty cycle of the jet can be done by selecting the X-ray observations where the broken power-law model was the best fit (jet active) and to compare with all the other observations best fitted by a power-law model consistent with the unsaturated Comptonization. From the data reported by Foschini [11], the global observing time was 208.5 ks, and 34.8 ks ( 17 %) of data resulted to be best fitted by a broken power-law model (Figure 1). This value of 17 % could be taken as a rough estimate of the jet duty cycle. Therefore, it is not surprising to find an agreement between the estimate via accretion disk fit and that by using the reverberation mapping (RM).
The RM measurement is also in agreement with the second order moment ( σ ) of the H β emission line measured with one epoch spectrum. This quantity ( σ ) is known to be less affected than the full-width half maximum (FWHM) by the inclination and shape of the broad-line region (BLR), and the accretion rate of the disk (e.g., [10] and references therein). Therefore, we can also exclude a bias due to these factors.
In this work, we consider as reference mass the average of the above cited values ( 2.2 × 10 7 M ), by excluding the two outliers [9,14]. One reason for the result in excess by León-Tavares [9] could be the difficulty in removing the background to model the point spread function (León-Tavares noted the lack of high S/N stars in the field of view [9]), and also the presence of evident signatures of a recent merger, discovered by Antón [19]. The discrepancies in the mass estimate via X-ray variability [12,14] could be due to the level of activity of the jet during X-ray observations: as previously noted (Figure 1, see also [17,18]), the X-ray corona is dominating the 0.3–10 keV flux and only when the jet is strongly active a hard tail above a few keV emerges.
Having set the most likely mass of the central black hole to the value of 2.2 × 10 7 M , it is possible to derive the structure of the AGN. The gravitational radius is:
r g = G M c 2 3.2 × 10 12 cm .
The size of the BLR is about 15 light days ( 3.9 × 10 16 cm or 0.013 pc), as derived from the measurements of H β and Fe II reverberation mapping ( 15 3 + 4 and 15 4 + 7 light days, respectively) [13]. This size is consistent with the expected external radius of the accretion disk ( 10 4 r g , [20]). From the radius–luminosity relationship [21], properly rearranged, it is possible to estimate the luminosity of the accretion disk:
L disk = κ ( 1.4 × 10 3 ) R BLR 1.88 × 10 44 2.3 × 10 44 erg / s
where L disk is the disk luminosity, R BLR = 15 light days, and κ is the factor to convert the λ L 5100 into the bolometric luminosity. This value is generally assumed to be 10, although in case of super-Eddington accretors, it could be as great as 150 [22,23]. In the above calculation, we assumed the conservative value of κ = 10 . In the case κ = 150 , then L disk 3.5 × 10 45 erg/s.
The boundary between the BLR and the molecular torus is given by the dust sublimation radius [24]:
R d , sub = 0.4 L disk , 45 0.19 pc
where L disk , 45 is the disk luminosity in units of 10 45 erg/s. The dust sublimation temperature has been taken to be 1500 K, and different values imply an additional factor [24]. The outer boundary of the torus is given by [24]:
R out = 12 × L disk , 45 5.7 pc .
The extension of the narrow-line region (NLR) can be measured from the luminosity of the [O III] λ 5007 line emission [25]. This line was carefully studied by Berton [26], who found that the profile was significantly affected by turbulence, likely due to the interaction with the relativistic jet. The line luminosity was found to be log L [ O III ] = 40.98 [26], which corresponds to a maximum extension of the NLR [25]:
R NLR , max = 10 ( 18.41 + 0.52 × log L [ O III ] ) 794 pc
The ring/spiral arm structure observed by Zhou, Antón, and León-Tavares [1,9,19] has a radius of 7.5 , corresponding to a linear size of 9 kpc. The viewing angle is unknown, but, by considering this structure developed along the equatorial plane of the central black hole, and that the jet is perpendicular to the black hole equator, then the viewing angle of the ring/spiral arm should be the complementary angle of the jet viewing angle θ 9 (see the next section). Therefore, the deprojected size is almost equal to the above calculated linear size.

3. The Jet Structure

The structure of the relativistic jet from J 0324 + 3410 has been studied at high-resolution radio frequencies [3,4,5,6,7]. Here we summarise their results. The jet shows a break at a quasi-stationary bright feature located downstream at 7 mas from the radio core. The inner region of the jet has a parabolic shape, while the outer region has a conical shape (see Figure in [6]). At the collimation break, the jet width is squeezed to half its value (see Figure 5 in [5]). Taking as reference the radio core at 43 GHz, and assuming that the jet has the origin close to the black hole position, then the jet width as a function of the radial distance from the black hole W ( r ) [mas] is [6]:
W ( r ) ( r r 0 ) 0.60 ± 0.03 r 7 mas ( r r 0 ) 1.41 ± 0.02 r 7 mas
where r 0 = 41 ± 36 μ as is the distance of the radio core at 43 GHz from the estimated position of the central black hole.
To calculate the linear distance, it is necessary to know the viewing angle of the jet. Many authors limited the viewing angle to θ 12 [4,6]. Recently, by measuring the Doppler factor from the variability in 15 GHz OVRO (Owens Valley Radio Observatory) light curves ( δ = 5.70 1.02 + 1.01 ) and the β app = 9.05 from the kinematic of the components as monitored by the MOJAVE project [8,27], a new value of θ = 9.06 8.91 + 1.04 degrees has been calculated [28]. The corresponding bulk Lorentz factor is then Γ 10 .
We can now convert the angular distances to linear size by taking into account the redshift z = 0.063 , which implies a projected linear size of 1.2 pc/mas, and the jet viewing angle θ 9 , which in turn means a deprojected size of 7.7 pc/mas. A smaller viewing angle (e.g., 4 [4] or even 3 [2]), implies a greater deprojected distance ( 23 pc/mas in the case of θ 3 ). The results are summarized in Table 2.
Asada and Nakamura [29] suggested that the change in shape of the M87 jet is located close to the Bondi radius. In the case of 1H 0323 + 342 , that quantity is [30]:
r Bondi = 2 G M c s 2 6.3 × 10 16 cm 0.02 pc
where c s is the adiabatic sound speed of the X-ray emitting gas at the accretion radius r Bondi . If we assume a gas temperature similar to that of M87 ( k T = 0.8 keV, [30]), then the sound speed is c s 305 km/s. The result is a radius much closer to the central black hole than the case of M87: in terms of gravitational radius, we have 2 × 10 4 r g for 1H 0323 + 342 vs. 7.6 × 10 5 r g for M87 [29].

4. The Map

It is now possible to summarize the linear deprojected size of all the structures of the jNLS1 J 0324 + 3410 in terms of gravitational radius, thus mapping this cosmic source. Table 3 lists all the structures of the AGN starting from the central black hole to the outer part of the galaxy, while Figure 1 displays the corresponding schematic.
As noted above, some authors [6,7] suggested that a central black hole with a greater mass, consistent with the measurements by León-Tavares [9], would imply the overlap of the jet profile of J 0324 + 3410 with that of M87. However, this line of reasoning is the classical post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Indeed, the scalability of the jet is a consequence of the self-similar shape, as proven by Heinz and Sunyaev [31]. High-resolution radio observations of M87 and J 0324 + 3410 proved that the jet shape is self-similar (paraboloidal and conical) in both sources. Therefore, it is possible to scale the jet according to Heinz and Sunyaev [31], but it is not useful to set the mass of the central singularity, because it is the normalization quantity. This also means that we can make the two jet profiles overlap by setting a smaller mass for the black hole in M87.
We note from Table 3 that the 43 GHz core is placed at a distance comparable with that of the torus3. It is worth noting that, in the case of super-Eddington accretion, the greater disk luminosity ( L disk 3.5 × 10 45 erg/s) would imply a farther torus ( R d , sub 0.75 pc), much farther than the radio core. Moreover, if we assume the upper limit of the BLR ( 15 + 7 = 22 light days) and a super-Eddington disk ( κ = 150 ), then L disk 7 × 10 45 erg/s, which in turn implies R d , sub 1 pc and R out 32 pc. Therefore, in this case, the radio core would be still at the scale of the BLR, but the jet nozzle remains always outside the torus, whatever the combination of measurements and errors we could consider.
The quasi-stationary feature at 5 × 10 7 r g , which is clearly in the NLR, is much more interesting. On one side, this is not surprising: the [O III] emission line profile reveals features indicating high turbulence, likely due to the interaction of the jet with the NLR gas [26]. On the other side, this is surprising when we linked this information with the observed activity at high-energy γ rays [5,6]. The jet width at the convergence is 0.39 ± 0.17 mas [5], corresponding to 0.47 pc (or 4.5 × 10 5 r g ). The fastest variability at high-energy γ rays was measured to be 3.1 hours [32], which implies a size of the emitting region r < τ c δ / ( 1 + z ) 1.8 × 10 15 cm. This is clearly too small for the jet size at the convergence shock. The observed width of the jet is more consistent with a time scale of months ( 97 days), and invoking a greater, but still reasonable, Doppler factor is not sufficient to mitigate the requirements (for δ = 50 , the time scale could be 11 days). A dedicated multiwavelength campaign with an intense sampling (hours time scale) would be necessary to better understand the behavior of the quasi-stationary shock and the possible production of high-energy γ -rays.
If confirmed, it would open a really intriguing possibility. The debate about the site of γ -ray generation was always confined between the BLR [33] and the torus [34,35], or both cases, depending on the epoch, as in the case of PKS 1222 + 216 [36]. Perhaps, now it is time to add one more competitor: the NLR. In this case, being the seed photons co-spatial with the relativistic electrons of the jet, as shown by the turbulence in the [O III] line emission [26], it is necessary to study the new dynamics of interactions in order to understand the possible implications.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, L.F.; Writing—Original Draft, L.F.; and Writing—Review and Editing, S.C., M.B., S.V., P.R., and V.B.


We acknowledge financial contribution from the agreement ASI-INAF n. 2017-14-H.0.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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This measurement was done by Zhou [1], but an older value of z = 0.061 was often used (e.g., NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database). The differences are minimal: 7 % for the luminosity, 1.21 pc/mas vs. 1.18 pc/mas for the conversion of angle to linear size. In this work, we used all the quantities for z = 0.063 . When we used values from literature with z = 0.061 , we corrected for the different z.
Monitoring Of Jets in Active galactic nuclei with VLBA Experiments:
Obviously, it is not on the torus, as the two structures are perpendicular each other.
Figure 1. Swift/XRT light curve of J 0324 + 3410 from the analysis reported by Foschini [11]. Blue stars indicate a best fit with a power-law model; red circles are for a broken power-law model. The vertical lines for the years are placed on 1 January of each year.
Figure 1. Swift/XRT light curve of J 0324 + 3410 from the analysis reported by Foschini [11]. Blue stars indicate a best fit with a power-law model; red circles are for a broken power-law model. The vertical lines for the years are placed on 1 January of each year.
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Figure 2. Schematic of the AGN J 0324 + 3410 . The distances (explicitly indicated with numbers) are in units of gravitational radius and in logarithmic scale (cf. Table 3).
Figure 2. Schematic of the AGN J 0324 + 3410 . The distances (explicitly indicated with numbers) are in units of gravitational radius and in logarithmic scale (cf. Table 3).
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Table 1. Summary of the mass estimates of the central black hole in J 0324 + 3410 .
Table 1. Summary of the mass estimates of the central black hole in J 0324 + 3410 .
( 10 7 M )
1 H β luminosity and FWHM, single epoch spectrum [1]
1 fit of the accretion disk, Shakura–Sunyaev model [2]
3.6 H β luminosity and σ , single epoch spectrum [11]
3.4 0.6 + 0.9 Reverberation mapping H β  [13]
2.2 0.6 + 0.8 single epoch spectrum, Pa α , H α , H β , excess variance at X-rays [12]
0.28 0.79 excess variance, PSD bend frequency at X-rays [14]
16 40 Black hole-bulge relationship, R and K s filters [9]
Table 2. Conversion of angular sizes to linear and deprojected sizes.
Table 2. Conversion of angular sizes to linear and deprojected sizes.
43 GHz Core 0.041 0.050 0.32 [6]
Convergence 6.97 8.4 54 [5]
Intensity Peak 7.40 9.0 57 [5]
Jet length 1.4  GHz 12.5 × 10 3 15 × 10 3 96 × 10 3  [19]
Table 3. Map of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 Galaxy J 0324 + 3410 . See Figure 2 for a schematic.
Table 3. Map of the narrow-line Seyfert 1 Galaxy J 0324 + 3410 . See Figure 2 for a schematic.
( r g )(pc)
Gravitational Radius1 1.0 × 10 6
Broad-line region 1.3 × 10 4 1.3 × 10 2
Bondi radius 2.0 × 10 4 2.0 × 10 2
Torus (inner radius) 1.9 × 10 5 0.19
Jet 43 GHz Core 3.2 × 10 5 0.32
Torus (outer radius) 5.7 × 10 6 5.7
Jet Convergence (nozzle) 5.4 × 10 7 54
Jet Intensity Peak 5.7 × 10 7 57
Narrow-line region (outer radius) 7.9 × 10 8 794
Ring/Spiral Arm 9.0 × 10 9 9 × 10 3
Jet length 9.6 × 10 10 9.6 × 10 4

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