Toward Horizon-scale Accretion onto Supermassive Black Holes in Elliptical Galaxies

Minghao Guo, James M. Stone, Chang Goo Kim, Eliot Quataert

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6 Scopus citations


We present high-resolution, three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations of the fueling of supermassive black holes in elliptical galaxies from a turbulent medium on galactic scales, taking M87* as a typical case. The simulations use a new GPU-accelerated version of the Athena++ AMR code, and they span more than six orders of magnitude in radius, reaching scales similar to that of the black hole horizon. The key physical ingredients are radiative cooling and a phenomenological heating model. We find that the accretion flow takes the form of multiphase gas at radii less than about a kpc. The cold gas accretion includes two dynamically distinct stages: the typical disk stage in which the cold gas resides in a rotationally supported disk, and relatively rare chaotic stages (≲10% of the time) in which the cold gas inflows via chaotic streams. Though cold gas accretion dominates the time-averaged accretion rate at intermediate radii, accretion at the smallest radii is dominated by hot virialized gas at most times. The accretion rate scales with radius as M ̇ ∝ r 1 / 2 when hot gas dominates, and we obtain M ̇ ≃ 10 − 4 - 10 − 3 M ⊙ yr − 1 near the event horizon, similar to what is inferred from EHT observations. The orientation of the cold gas disk can differ significantly on different spatial scales. We propose a subgrid model for accretion in lower-resolution simulations in which the hot gas accretion rate is suppressed relative to the Bondi rate by ∼ ( r g / r Bondi ) 1 / 2 . Our results can also provide more realistic initial conditions for simulations of black hole accretion at the event horizon scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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