How important is non-ideal physics in simulations of sub-Eddington accretion on to spinning black holes?

Francois Foucart, Mani Chandra, Charles F. Gammie, Eliot Quataert, Alexander Tchekhovskoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Black holes with accretion rates well below the Eddington rate are expected to be surrounded by low-density, hot, geometrically thick accretion discs. This includes the two black holes being imaged at subhorizon resolution by the Event Horizon Telescope. In these discs, the mean free path for Coulomb interactions between charged particles is large, and the accreting matter is a nearly collisionless plasma. Despite this, numerical simulations have so farmodelled these accretion flows using ideal magnetohydrodynamics. Here, we present the first global, general relativistic, 3D simulations of accretion flows on to a Kerr black hole including the non-ideal effects most likely to affect the dynamics of the disc: the anisotropy between the pressure parallel and perpendicular to the magnetic field, and the heat flux along magnetic field lines. We show that for both standard and magnetically arrested discs, the pressure anisotropy is comparable to the magnetic pressure, while the heat flux remains dynamically unimportant. Despite this large pressure anisotropy, however, the time-averaged structure of the accretion flow is strikingly similar to that found in simulations treating the plasma as an ideal fluid. We argue that these similarities are largely due to the interchangeability of the viscous and magnetic shear stresses as long as the magnetic pressure is small compared to the gas pressure, and to the subdominant role of pressure/viscous effects in magnetically arrested discs. We conclude by highlighting outstanding questions in modelling the dynamics of low-collisionality accretion flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2240-2252
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 11 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxies: nuclei
  • Galaxy: centre
  • MHD
  • Methods: numerical
  • Stars: black holes


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