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Foundations of Black Hole Accretion Disk Theory

Journal article
Authors Marek A Abramowicz
P. C. Fragile
Published in Living Reviews in Relativity
Volume 16
Issue 1
ISSN 1433-8351
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Physics (GU)
Language en
Keywords x-ray binaries, advection-dominated accretion, quasi-periodic, oscillations, relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations, active, galactic nuclei, weakly magnetized disks, local shear instability, sgr, a-asterisk, magnetically driven accretion, angular-momentum distribution
Subject categories High energy astrophysics


This review covers the main aspects of black hole accretion disk theory. We begin with the view that one of the main goals of the theory is to better understand the nature of black holes themselves. In this light we discuss how accretion disks might reveal some of the unique signatures of strong gravity: the event horizon, the innermost stable circular orbit, and the ergosphere. We then review, from a first-principles perspective, the physical processes at play in accretion disks. This leads us to the four primary accretion disk models that we review: Polish doughnuts (thick disks), Shakura-Sunyaev (thin) disks, slim disks, and advection-dominated accretion flows (ADAFs). After presenting the models we discuss issues of stability, oscillations, and jets. Following our review of the analytic work, we take a parallel approach in reviewing numerical studies of black hole accretion disks. We finish with a few select applications that highlight particular astrophysical applications: measurements of black hole mass and spin, black hole vs. neutron star accretion disks, black hole accretion disk spectral states, and quasi-periodic oscillations (QPOs).

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