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Astron. Astrophys. 358, 104-112 (2000)

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Does the unification of BL Lac and FR I radio galaxies require jet velocity structures?

M. Chiaberge 1, A. Celotti 1, A. Capetti 2 and G. Ghisellini 3

1 SISSA/ISAS, Via Beirut 2-4, 34014 Trieste, Italy
2 Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino, Strada Osservatorio 20, 10025 Pino Torinese, Italy
3 Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Via Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate (LC), Italy

Received 1 February 2000 / Accepted 27 March 2000


We explore the viability of the unification of BL Lacs and FR I radio galaxies by comparing the core emission of radio galaxies with those of BL Lacs of similar extended radio power, taking advantage of the newly measured optical nuclear luminosity of FR I sources. The spectral properties of complete samples are also studied in the radio-optical luminosity plane: starting from the Spectral Energy Distribution (SED) of BL Lacs, we calculate the predicted luminosity of FR I nuclei in the frame of a simple one-zone model, by properly taking into account the relativistic transformations. We find that the bulk Lorentz factors required by the spread in the observed luminosities in all bands are significantly smaller than those implied by other, both observational and theoretical, considerations. This discrepancy is also reflected in the fact that FR I nuclei are over-luminous by a factor of 10-104, with respect to the predictions, both in the radio and in the optical band.

In order to reconcile these results with the unification scheme, velocity structures in the jet are suggested, where a fast spine is surrounded by a slow (but still relativistic) layer so that the emission at different angles is dominated by different velocity components: the fast one dominates the emission in BL Lacs while the slow layer dominates the emission in misaligned objects. Furthermore for the lowest luminosity BL Lacs it has to be also postulated that their beaming factor in the radio band is lower than in the optical (and X-ray), as would result from deceleration of the jet.

The self-consistency of the unification model therefore requires that both intrinsic differences in the SED and different beaming properties play a substantial role in characterizing the phenomenology of these sources.

Key words: galaxies: active – galaxies: BL Lacertae objects: general – galaxies: jets – galaxies: nuclei

Send offprint requests to: M. Chiaberge (chiab@sissa.it)

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: June 26, 2000