Doppler boosting, superluminal motion, and the kinematics of AGN jets
We discuss results from a decade long program to study the fine-scale structure and the kinematics of relativistic AGN jets with the aim of better understanding the acceleration and collimation of the relativistic plasma forming AGN jets. From the observed distribution of brightness temperature, apparent velocity, flux density, time variability, and apparent luminosity, the intrinsic properties of the jets including Lorentz factor, luminosity, orientation, and brightness temperature are discussed. Special attention is given to the jet in M87, which has been studied over a wide range of wavelengths and which, due to its proximity, is observed with excellent spatial resolution. Most radio jets appear quite linear, but we also observe curved non-linear jets and non-radial motions. Sometimes, different features in a given jet appear to follow the same curved path but there is evidence for ballistic trajectories as well. The data are best fit with a distribution of Lorentz factors extending up to γ∼30 and intrinsic luminosity up to ~10^(26) W Hz^(−1). In general, gamma-ray quasars may have somewhat larger Lorentz factors than non gamma-ray quasars. Initially the observed brightness temperature near the base of the jet extend up to ~5×10^(13) K which is well in excess of the inverse Compton limit and corresponds to a large excess of particle energy over magnetic energy. However, more typically, the observed brightness temperatures are ~2×10^(11) K, i.e., closer to equipartition.