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Disk Tearing: Implications for Black Hole Accretion and AGN Variability

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-03-21, 14:59 authored by A Raj, CJ Nixon
Accretion disks around black holes power some of the most luminous objects in the universe. Disks that are misaligned to the black hole spin can become warped over time by Lense-Thirring precession. Recent work has shown that strongly warped disks can become unstable, causing the disk to break into discrete rings producing a more dynamic and variable accretion flow. In a companion paper, we present numerical simulations of this instability and the resulting dynamics. In this paper, we discuss the implications of this dynamics for accreting black hole systems, with particular focus on the variability of active galactic nuclei (AGN). We discuss the timescales on which variability might manifest, as well as the impact of the observer orientation with respect to the black hole spin axis. When the disk warp is unstable near the inner edge of the disk, we find quasi-periodic behavior of the inner disk, which may explain the recent quasi-periodic eruptions observed in, for example, the Seyfert 2 galaxy GSN 069 and in the galactic nucleus of RX J1301.9+2747. These eruptions are thought to be similar to the "heartbeat"modes observed in some X-ray binaries (e.g., GRS 1915+105 and IGR J17091-3624). When the instability manifests at larger radii in the disk, we find that the central accretion rate can vary on timescales that may be commensurate with, e.g., changing-look AGN. We therefore suggest that some of the variability properties of accreting black hole systems may be explained by the disk being significantly warped, leading to disk tearing.

History

Citation

ApJ 909 82

Author affiliation

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Astrophysical Journal

Volume

909

Issue

1

Publisher

IOP PUBLISHING LTD

issn

0004-637X

eissn

1538-4357

Acceptance date

2021-01-13

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2022-03-21

Language

English

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