How important is non-ideal physics in simulations of sub-Eddington accretion on to spinning black holes?

Academic Article


  • Black holes with accretion rates well below the Eddington rate are expected to be surrounded by low-density, hot, geometrically thick accretion disks. This includes the two black holes being imaged at sub-horizon resolution by the Event Horizon Telescope. In these disks, the mean free path for Coulomb interactions between charged particles is large, and the accreting matter is a nearly collisionless plasma. Despite this, numerical simulations have so far modeled these accretion flows using ideal magnetohydrodynamics. Here, we present the first global, general relativistic, 3D simulations of accretion flows onto a Kerr black hole including the non-ideal effects most likely to affect the dynamics of the disk: the anisotropy between the pressure parallel and perpendicular to the magnetic field, and the heat flux along magnetic field lines. We show that for both standard and magnetically arrested disks, the pressure anisotropy is comparable to the magnetic pressure, while the heat flux remains dynamically unimportant. Despite this large pressure anisotropy, however, the time-averaged structure of the accretion flow is strikingly similar to that found in simulations treating the plasma as an ideal fluid. We argue that these similarities are largely due to the interchangeability of the viscous and magnetic shear stresses as long as the magnetic pressure is small compared to the gas pressure, and to the sub-dominant role of pressure/viscous effects in magnetically arrested disks. We conclude by highlighting outstanding questions in modeling the dynamics of low collisionality accretion flows.
  • Authors

  • Foucart, Francois
  • Chandra, Mani
  • Gammie, Charles F
  • Quataert, Eliot
  • Tchekhovskoy, Alexander
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • September 2017
  • Has Subject Area


  • Galaxy: centre
  • MHD
  • black hole physics
  • galaxies: nuclei
  • methods: numerical
  • stars: black holes
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 2240
  • End Page

  • 2252
  • Volume

  • 470
  • Issue

  • 2