The magnetic nature of disk accretion onto black holes

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Posted: Friday, June 16, 2006

image Astrophysics, abstract

From: Jon M. Miller [view email]
Date: Tue, 16 May 2006 14:36:09 GMT   (27kb)
The magnetic nature of disk accretion onto black holes
Authors: J. M. Miller (1), J. Raymond (2), A. C. Fabian (3), D. Steeghs (2), J. Homan (4), C. S. Reynolds (5), M. van der Klis (6), Rudy Wijnands (6) ((1) University of Michigan, (2) Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, (3) University of Cambridge, (4) MIT, (5) University of Maryland, (6) University of Amsterdam)
Comments: 15 pages, 2 color figures, accepted for publication in Nature. Supplemental materials may be obtained by clicking this http URL
Although disk accretion onto compact objects - white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes - is central to much of high energy astrophysics, the mechanisms which enable this process have remained observationally elusive. Accretion disks must transfer angular momentum for matter to travel radially inward onto the compact object. Internal viscosity from magnetic processes and disk winds can in principle both transfer angular momentum, but hitherto we lacked evidence that either occurs. Here we report that an X-ray-absorbing wind discovered in an observation of the stellar-mass black hole binary GRO J1655-40 must be powered by a magnetic process that can also drive accretion through the disk. Detailed spectral analysis and modeling of the wind shows that it can only be powered by pressure generated by magnetic viscosity internal to the disk or magnetocentrifugal forces. This result demonstrates that disk accretion onto black holes is a fundamentally magnetic process.
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