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Precessing jet nozzle connecting to a spinning black hole in M87


The nearby radio galaxy M87 offers a unique opportunity to explore the connections between the central supermassive black hole and relativistic jets. Previous studies of the inner region of M87 revealed a wide opening angle for the jet originating near the black hole1,2,3,4. The Event Horizon Telescope resolved the central radio source and found an asymmetric ring structure consistent with expectations from general relativity5. With a baseline of 17 years of observations, there was a shift in the jet’s transverse position, possibly arising from an 8- to 10-year quasi-periodicity3. However, the origin of this sideways shift remains unclear. Here we report an analysis of radio observations over 22 years that suggests a period of about 11 years for the variation in the position angle of the jet. We infer that we are seeing a spinning black hole that induces the Lense–Thirring precession of a misaligned accretion disk. Similar jet precession may commonly occur in other active galactic nuclei but has been challenging to detect owing to the small magnitude and long period of the variation.

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Fig. 1: Structural evolution of M87 jet from 2013 to 2020.
Fig. 2: Time dependence of the M87 jet PA from 2000 to 2022 and a schematic picture of the precession model.
Fig. 3: GRMHD simulation.

Data availability

The raw data can be downloaded from the EAVN Archive system ( and NRAO Archive Interface ( The calibrated data used in this paper are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request due to the ongoing projects. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

For data processing, we utilize public software, including AIPS for calibration (, DIFMAP for imaging ( and Python package EMCEE for MCMC fitting ( The codes for the simulations in this paper are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request due to the ongoing and follow-up projects.


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We thank W. Wang, C. Yim, Z. Wang, F. Gu, Y. Feng, M. Nakamura, S. Zhao and T. Yanagida for discussions and their support. This project is funded by the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant no. 2022M712084) and the Key Research Project of Zhejiang Lab no. 2021PE0AC03. Y.C. is supported by the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. This work is partially supported by the MEXT/JSPS KAKENHI (grant nos. JP18H03721, JP19H01943, JP18KK0090, JP2101137, JP21H04488, JP22H00157, JP18K13594, JP19H01908, JP19H01906, JP18K03656, JP19KK0081). This work has been supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (grant no. 2022YFA1603104), the Major Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 11590780, 11590784) and the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS (grant no. QYZDJ-SSW-SLH057). T.K. is supported in part by MEXT SPIRE, MEXT as ‘Priority Issue on post-K computer’ (Elucidation of the Fundamental Laws and Evolution of the Universe) and as ‘Program for Promoting Researches on the Supercomputer Fugaku’ (Toward a unified view of the universe: from large scale structures to planets and Structure and Evolution of the Universe Unraveled by Fusion of Simulation and AI; grant no. JPMXP1020230406) and JICFuS. The GRMHD simulations were carried out on the XC50 at the Center for Computational Astrophysics, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. Y.M. is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 12273022) and the Shanghai pilot programme of international scientists for basic research (grant no. 22JC1410600). J.Y.K. acknowledges the support from the National Research Foundation of Korea (grant no. 2022R1C1C1005255). S.T. acknowledges financial support from the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant no. 2022R1F1A1075115. This research was supported by the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute under the R&D program supervised by the Ministry of Science and ICT. H.R. and B.W.S. acknowledge support from the KASI-Yonsei DRC program of the Korea Research Council of Fundamental Science and Technology (DRC-12-2-KASI). I.C. acknowledges financial support in part by the Consejería de Economía, Conocimiento, Empresas y Universidad of the Junta de Andalucía (grant no. P18-FR-1769), the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (grant no. 2019AEP112), and the Severo Ochoa grant no. CEX2021-001131-S funded by MCIN/AEI/ 10.13039/501100011033. R.-S.L. is supported by the Key Program of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 11933007); the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, CAS (grant no. ZDBS-LY-SLH011); the Shanghai Pilot Program for Basic Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai Branch (JCYJ-SHFY-2022-013) and the Max Planck Partner Group of the MPG and the CAS. This work made use of the East Asian VLBI Network (EAVN), which is operated under cooperative agreement by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI), Shanghai Astronomical Observatory (SHAO), Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory (XAO), Yunnan Observatories (YNAO), National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (Public Organization) (NARIT), and National Geographic Information Institute (NGII), with the operational support by Ibaraki University (for the operation of Hitachi 32 m and Takahagi 32 m), Yamaguchi University (for the operation of Yamaguchi 32 m) and Kagoshima University (for the operation of VERA Iriki antenna). The Nanshan 26 m radio telescope (NSRT) is operated by the Urumqi Nanshan Astronomy and Deep Space Exploration Observation and Research Station of Xinjiang. The Sardinia Radio Telescope is funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MIUR), Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (RAS) and is operated as National Facility by the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF). The Medicina radio telescope is funded by the MIUR and is operated as a National Facility by the INAF. The VLBA is an instrument of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated by Associated Universities, Inc.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y.C. led the project. Y.C., K.H., H.R., K.Y., Jintao Yu, J.P., W.J. and E.K. worked on the data calibration, image reconstruction, analysis and interpretation of the results. T.K., M.K., W.L., Y.M., M.H. and Z.S. worked on the theoretical implications, simulations and interpretation of the results. Y.C. wrote the original manuscript. J.-C.A., X.C., I.C., G.G., M.G., T.J., R.-S.L., K.N., J.O., K.O., S.S.-S., B.W.S., H.T., M.T., F.T., S.T. and K.W. contributed to the scientific discussions by means of the EAVN Active Galactic Nuclei Science Working Group’s regular meetings. Kazunori Akiyama, T.A., Keiichi Asada, S.B., D.B., L.C., Y.H., T.H., J.H., N.K., J.-Y.K., S.-S.L., J.W.L., J.A.L., G.M., A. Melis, A. Melnikov, C.M., S.-J.O., K.S., X.W., Y.Z., Z.C., J.-Y.H., D.-K.J., H.-R.K., J.-S.K., H.K., B.L., G.L., Xiaofei Li, Z.L., Q.L., Xiang Liu, C.-S.O., T.O., D.-G.R., J.W., N.W., S.W., B.X., H.Y., J.-H.Y., Y.Y., Jianping Yuan, H.Z., R.Z. and W.Z. conducted observations and worked on data correlation and antenna maintenance. All authors contributed to the discussion of the results presented and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yuzhu Cui.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Structural evolution of M87 jet 2000–2022 at Q band.

The images are produced by the yearly stacked EAVN and VLBA data. A common circular restoring beam with FWHM of 0.5 mas (shown in the bottom-right corner of each panel) is used for all individual images before stacking. The observing year is indicated at the top-left corner.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Structural evolution of M87 jet 2013–2020 at K band.

The images are produced by the yearly stacked EAVN and VLBA data. A common circular restoring beam with FWHM of 1.2 mas (shown in the bottom-right corner of each panel) is used for all individual images before stacking. The observing year is indicated at the top-left corner.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Posterior distributions of precession model parameters in different cases.

(a): comparison among Case I–III with different constraints. (b): comparison among Case III–VI with different data sets. The detailed information for each case is described in Extended Data Table 4 and Methods. The contours correspond to the 68% and 95% confidence levels.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Evolution of the viewing angle \({\boldsymbol{\phi }}\) as a function of time.

The black thick line is derived from the best-fit precession model parameters. The blue thin lines are plotted by the randomly chosen model parameters derived from the MCMC samples and represent the statistical errors. The constraint of \({\phi }_{2007.36} \sim {\mathcal{N}}(17.2,{3.3}^{2})\) obtained from ref. 37 is represented by the green dot with an error bar of one standard deviation. The constraints of ϕ1996.57 ≤ 19°45 and ϕ2007.36 [13, 27]°37 are indicated with green arrow and shadow, respectively.

Extended Data Table 1 Summary of the data from the different arrays
Extended Data Table 2 Antenna information of four EATING observations at 22 GHz
Extended Data Table 3 Common prior distribution for each parameter in Case I–Case VI
Extended Data Table 4 Detailed specifications for Case I–Case VI
Extended Data Table 5 MCMC fitting results for Case I–Case VI
Extended Data Table 6 Jet viewing angle at some selected years

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table 1

Summary of EAVN, VLBA and EATING observations.

Peer Review File

Source data

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Cui, Y., Hada, K., Kawashima, T. et al. Precessing jet nozzle connecting to a spinning black hole in M87. Nature 621, 711–715 (2023).

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