Global Radiation Magnetohydrodynamic Simulations of sub-Eddington Accretion Disks around Supermassive Black Holes

Yan Fei Jiang, Omer Blaes, James M. Stone, Shane W. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


We conduct global three-dimensional radiation magnetohydrodynamic simulations of the inner regions of accretion flows around a 5 × 108 M o black hole, with mass accretion rates reaching 7% and 20% of the Eddington value. We choose initial field topologies that result in an inner disk supported by magnetic pressure, with surface density significantly smaller than the values predicted by the standard thin-disk model as well as a much larger disk scale height. The disks do not show any sign of thermal instability over many thermal timescales. More than half of the accretion is driven by radiation viscosity in the optically thin coronal region for the case of the lower accretion rate, while accretion in the optically thick part of the disk is driven by the Maxwell and Reynolds stresses from turbulence caused by magnetorotational instability. Optically thin plasma with gas temperatures ⪆108 K is generated only in the inner ≈10 gravitational radii in both simulations, and is more compact in the case of the higher accretion rate. Such plasma does not form at larger radii because the surface density increases outward with radius, causing less dissipation outside the photosphere. In contrast to standard thin-disk models, the surface density in our simulations increases with increasing mass accretion rate at each radius. This causes a relatively weaker hot plasma component for the simulation with a higher accretion rate. We suggest that these results may provide a physical mechanism for understanding some of the observed properties of coronae and spectra of active galactic nuclei.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 10 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • methods: Numerical
  • quasars: Supermassive black holes
  • radiative transfer


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