The Structure of Radiatively Inefficient Black Hole Accretion Flows

Christopher J. White, Eliot Quataert, Charles F. Gammie

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26 Scopus citations


We run three long-timescale general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations of radiatively inefficient accretion flows (RIAFs) onto non-rotating black holes. Our aim is to achieve steady-state behavior out to large radii and understand the resulting flow structure. A simulation with adiabatic index Γ = 4/3 and small initial alternating poloidal magnetic field loops is run to a time of 440,000 GM/c 3, reaching inflow equilibrium inside a radius of 370 GM/c 2. Variations with larger alternating field loops and with Γ = 5/3 are run to 220,000 GM/c 3, attaining equilibrium out to 170 GM/c 2 and 440 GM/c 2. There is no universal self-similar behavior obtained at radii in inflow equilibrium: the Γ = 5/3 simulation shows a radial density profile with a power-law index ranging from -1 in the inner regions to -1/2 in the outer regions, while the others have a power-law slope ranging from -1/2 to close to -2. Both simulations with small field loops reach a state with polar inflow of matter, while the more ordered initial field has polar outflows. However, unbound outflows remove only a factor of order unity of the inflowing material over a factor of ∼300 in radius. Our results suggest that the dynamics of RIAFs are sensitive to how the flow is fed from larger radii, and may differ appreciably in different astrophysical systems. Millimeter images appropriate for Sgr A∗ are qualitatively (but not quantitatively) similar in all simulations, with a prominent asymmetric image due to Doppler boosting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number63
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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