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What Does a Black Hole Look Like?$
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Charles D. Bailyn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148823

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148823.001.0001

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Accretion onto a Black Hole

Accretion onto a Black Hole

(p.13) 2 Accretion onto a Black Hole
What Does a Black Hole Look Like?

Charles D. Bailyn

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the ways that accretion onto a black hole produces energy and radiation. As material falls into a gravitational potential well, energy is transformed from gravitational potential energy into other forms of energy, so that total energy is conserved. Observing such accretion energy is one of the primary ways that astrophysicists pinpoint the locations of potential black holes. The spectrum and intensity of this radiation is governed by the geometry of the gas flow, the mass infall rate, and the mass of the accretor. The simplest flow geometry is that of a stationary object accreting mass equally from all directions. Such spherically symmetric accretion is referred to as Bondi-Hoyle accretion. However, accretion flows onto black holes are not thought to be spherically symmetric—the infall is much more frequently in the form of a flattened disk.

Keywords:   accretion, black holes, radiation, gravitational potential energy, accretion energy, gas flow geometry, mass infall rate, accretor mass, Bondi-Hoyle accretion, accretion disks

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