Millimeter observational signatures of flares in magnetically arrested black hole accretion models

He Jia, Bart Ripperda, Eliot Quataert, Christopher J. White, Koushik Chatterjee, Alexander Philippov, Matthew Liska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations, accreted magnetic flux on the black hole horizon episodically decays, during which magnetic reconnection heats up the plasma near the horizon, potentially powering high-energy flares like those observed in M87∗ and Sgr A∗. We study the mm observational counterparts of such flaring episodes in very high resolution GRMHD simulations. The change in 230 GHz flux during the expected high energy flares depends primarily on the efficiency of accelerating γ 100 (Te 1011 K) electrons. For models in which the electrons are heated to Te ∼ 1011 K during flares, the hot plasma produced by reconnection significantly enhances 230 GHz emission and increases the size of the 230 GHz image. By contrast, for models in which the electrons are heated to higher temperatures (which we argue are better motivated), the reconnection-heated plasma is too hot to produce significant 230 GHz synchrotron emission, and the 230 GHz flux decreases during high energy flares. We do not find a significant change in the mm polarization during flares as long as the emission is Faraday thin. We also present expectations for the ring-shaped image as observed by the Event Horizon Telescope during flares, as well as multiwavelength synchrotron spectra. Our results highlight several limitations of standard post-processing prescriptions for the electron temperature in GRMHD simulations. We also discuss the implications of our results for current and future observations of flares in Sgr A∗, M87∗, and related systems. Appendices contain detailed convergence studies with respect to resolution and plasma magnetization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2924-2941
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • accretion, accretion discs
  • black hole physics
  • methods: numerical
  • relativistic processes


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