Erratic Jet Wobbling in the BL Lacertae Object OJ287 Revealed by Sixteen Years of 7mm VLBA Observations
by Agudo, Ivan and Marscher, Alan P. and Jorstad, Svetlana G. and Gomez, Jose L. and Perucho, Manel and Piner, B. Glenn and Rioja, Maria and Dodson, Richard
Accepted for Publication in The Astrophysical Journal. 11 pages, 6 figures, 4 tables. High resolution images on figure 1 and complete tables 1 and 2 may be provided on request
We present the results from an ultra-high-resolution 7mm Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) study of the relativistic jet in the BL Lacertae object OJ287 from 1995 to 2011 containing 136 total intensity images. Analysis of the image sequence reveals a sharp jet-position-angle swing by >100 deg. during [2004,2006], as viewed in the plane of the sky, that we interpret as the crossing of the jet from one side of the line of sight to the other during a softer and longer term swing of the inner jet. Modulating such long term swing, our images also show for the first time a prominent erratic wobbling behavior of the innermost ~0.4mas of the jet with fluctuations in position angle of up to ~40 deg. over time scales ~2yr. This is accompanied by highly superluminal motions along non-radial trajectories, which reflect the remarkable non-ballistic nature of the jet plasma on these scales. The erratic nature and short time scales of the observed behavior rules out scenarios such as binary black hole systems, accretion disk precession, and interaction with the ambient medium as possible origins of the phenomenon on the scales probed by our observations, although such processes may cause longer-term modulation of the jet direction. We propose that variable asymmetric injection of the jet flow; perhaps related to turbulence in the accretion disk; coupled with hydrodynamic instabilities, leads to the non-ballistic dynamics that cause the observed non-periodic changes in the direction of the inner jet.