Ramesh Narayan - Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Ramesh Narayan
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Ramesh Narayan
Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

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Pub Categories

High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (44)
Astrophysics of Galaxies (8)
General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (8)
Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics (6)
Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (6)
High Energy Physics - Theory (3)
Physics - Plasma Physics (3)
Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (2)
Physics - Space Physics (2)
Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (1)
Physics - Fluid Dynamics (1)

Publications Authored By Ramesh Narayan

Current simulations of hot accretion flows around black holes assume either a single-temperature gas or, at best, a two-temperature gas with thermal ions and electrons. However, processes like magnetic reconnection and shocks can accelerate electrons into a nonthermal distribution, which will not quickly thermalise at the very low densities found in many systems. Such nonthermal electrons have been invoked to explain the infrared and X-ray spectra and strong variability of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the black hole at the Galactic Center. Read More

According to magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), the encounter of two collisional magnetized plasmas at high velocity gives rise to shock waves. Investigations conducted so far have found that the same conclusion still holds in the case of collisionless plasmas. For the case of a flow-aligned field, MHD stipulates that the field and the fluid are disconnected, so that the shock produced is independent of the field. Read More

Many black hole (BH) candidates have been discovered in X-ray binaries and in the nuclei of galaxies. The prediction of Einstein's general relativity is that BHs have an event horizon --- a one-way membrane through which particles fall into the BH but cannot exit. However, except for the very few nearby supermassive BH candidates, our telescopes are unable to resolve and provide a direct proof of the event horizon. Read More

We present general relativistic radiation MHD simulations of super-Eddington accretion on a $10M_\odot$ black hole. We consider a range of mass accretion rates, black hole spins, and magnetic field configurations. We compute the spectra and images of the models as a function of viewing angle, and compare them with the observed properties of ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). Read More

Magnetic fields play an important role in the dynamics of accretion disks, however, the origin of the fields is often obscured. Here we show that magnetic fields can be generated in an initially non-magnetized accretion disks through the Biermann battery mechanism, where the radial temperature profile and the vertical density profile of these systems provide the necessarily conditions for this process to operate naturally. We consider the generation of fields in a protoplanetary disks and disks around Black Holes (BHs). Read More

Affiliations: 1University of Maryland at College Park, Dept. of Physics, Joint Space-Science Institute, 2Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester, 3Copernicus Astronomical Center, 4MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, 5MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

We present an extension to the general relativistic radiation magnetohydrodynamic code HARMRAD to account for emission and absorption by thermal cyclo-synchrotron, double Compton, bremsstrahlung, low-temperature OPAL opacities as well as Thomson and Compton scattering. We approximate the radiation field as a Bose-Einstein distribution and evolve it using the radiation number-energy-momentum conservation equations in order to track photon hardening. We perform various simulations to study how these extensions affect the radiative properties of magnetically-arrested disks accreting at Eddington to super-Eddington rates. Read More

Newly recognized effects of refractive scattering in the ionized interstellar medium have broad implications for very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) at extreme angular resolutions. Building upon work by Blandford & Narayan (1985), we present a simplified, geometrical optics framework, which enables rapid, semi-analytic estimates of refractive scattering effects. We show that these estimates exactly reproduce previous results based on a more rigorous statistical formulation. Read More

Images of the linear polarization of synchrotron radiation around Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) identify their projected magnetic field lines and provide key data for understanding the physics of accretion and outflow from supermassive black holes. The highest resolution polarimetric images of AGN are produced with Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). Because VLBI incompletely samples the Fourier transform of the source image, any image reconstruction that fills in unmeasured spatial frequencies will not be unique and reconstruction algorithms are required. Read More

Affiliations: 1Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 2ASC Lebedev, MPIfR, 3UCSB, 4JIVE, Delft U, 5Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, 6ICRAR/Curtin, CAASTRO, 7CSIRO, ANU Canberra, 8ASC Lebedev, 9Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam, MPIfR, 10ASC Lebedev, SAI MSU, 11ASC Lebedev

Earth-space interferometry with RadioAstron provides the highest direct angular resolution ever achieved in astronomy at any wavelength. RadioAstron detections of the classic quasar 3C273 on interferometric baselines up to 171,000 km suggest brightness temperatures exceeding expected limits from the "inverse-Compton catastrophe" by two orders of magnitude. We show that at 18 cm, these estimates most probably arise from refractive substructure introduced by scattering in the interstellar medium. Read More

Near a black hole, differential rotation of a magnetized accretion disk is thought to produce an instability that amplifies weak magnetic fields, driving accretion and outflow. These magnetic fields would naturally give rise to the observed synchrotron emission in galaxy cores and to the formation of relativistic jets, but no observations to date have been able to resolve the expected horizon-scale magnetic-field structure. We report interferometric observations at 1. Read More

We construct models of static, spherically symmetric shells supported by the radiation flux of a luminous neutron star in the Schwarzschild metric. The atmospheres are disconnected from the star and levitate above its surface. Gas pressure and density inversion appear in the inner region of these atmospheres, which is a purely relativistic phenomenon. Read More

We study energy flows in geometrically thick accretion discs, both optically thick and thin, using general relativistic, three-dimensional simulations of black hole accretion flows. We find that for non-rotating black holes the efficiency of the total feedback from thick accretion discs is $3\%$ - roughly half of the thin disc efficiency. This amount of energy is ultimately distributed between outflow and radiation, the latter scaling weakly with the accretion rate for super-critical accretion rates, and returned to the interstellar medium. Read More

Affiliations: 1Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 3California Institute of Technology, Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, 4Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 5Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 6Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 7Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 8Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 9Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 10Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, 11California Institute of Technology, Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, 12California Institute of Technology, Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, 13Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 14Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 15Rice University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 16Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 17Georgia College, Department of Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy, 18Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 19Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 20North-West University, Centre for Space Research, 21Technical University of Denmark, DTU Space, National Space Institute, 22Yale University, Department of Astronomy, 23Washington University in Saint Louis, Physics Department and McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, 24University of Virginia, Department of Astronomy, 25MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics Garching, 26Durham University, Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, Department of Physics, 27Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 28North Carolina State University, Department of Physics, 29Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 30Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy, UK, 31Penn State University, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 32Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 33University of California, Berkeley, Department of Physics, 34ASI Science Data Center, Italy, 35California Institute of Technology, Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, 36Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy, UK, 37Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 38Purdue University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 39Texas Tech University, Physics Department, 40Nagoya University, Center for Experimental Studies, Kobayashi-Maskawa Institute for the Origin of Particles and the Universe, 41University of Maryland, Physics Department, 42RIKEN, 43Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Astronomy Dept, 44Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 45Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, INAF, 46Department of Astronomy/Steward Observatory, 47Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 48Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 49Department of Astronomy/Steward Observatory, 50NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 51Tohoku University, Astronomical Institute, 52NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

This paper describes the Polarization Spectroscopic Telescope Array (PolSTAR), a mission proposed to NASA's 2014 Small Explorer (SMEX) announcement of opportunity. PolSTAR measures the linear polarization of 3-50 keV (requirement; goal: 2.5-70 keV) X-rays probing the behavior of matter, radiation and the very fabric of spacetime under the extreme conditions close to the event horizons of black holes, as well as in and around magnetars and neutron stars. Read More

We describe HEROIC, an upgraded version of the relativistic radiative post-processor code HERO described in a previous paper, but which now Includes Comptonization. HEROIC models Comptonization via the Kompaneets equation, using a quadratic approximation for the source function in the short characteristics radiation solver. It employs a simple form of accelerated lambda iteration to handle regions of high scattering opacity. Read More

We present a set of four three-dimensional, general relativistic, radiation MHD simulations of black hole accretion at super-critical mass accretion rates, $\dot{M} > \dot{M}_{\rm Edd}$. We use these simulations to study how disk properties are modified when we vary the black hole mass, the black hole spin, or the mass accretion rate. In the case of a non-rotating black hole, we find that the total efficiency is of order $3\%\dot M c^2$, approximately a factor of two less than the efficiency of a standard thin accretion disk. Read More

We introduce a new method for treating Comptonization in computational fluid dynamics. By construction, this method conserves the number of photons. Whereas the traditional "blackbody Comptonization" approach assumes that the radiation is locally a perfect blackbody and therefore uses a single parameter, the radiation temperature, to describe the radiation, the new "photon-conserving Comptonization" approach treats the photon gas as a Bose-Einstein fluid and keeps track of both the radiation temperature and the photon number density. Read More

HERO (Hybrid Evaluator for Radiative Objects) is a 3D general relativistic radiative transfer code which has been tailored to the problem of analyzing radiation from simulations of relativistic accretion discs around black holes. HERO is designed to be used as a postprocessor. Given some fixed fluid structure for the disc (i. Read More

Affiliations: 1Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 2Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 3Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 4Department of Physics, UC Santa Barbara, 5Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 6MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, 7Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

We explore the variability properties of long, high cadence GRMHD simulations across the electromagnetic spectrum using an efficient, GPU-based radiative transfer algorithm. We focus on both disk- and jet-dominated simulations with parameters that successfully reproduce the time-averaged spectral properties of Sgr A* and the size of its image at 1.3mm. Read More

Affiliations: 1Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, 2Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 3University of Texas at Austin, 4Department of Physics and Space Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, 5Steward Observatory, 6Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

The 6 billion solar mass supermassive black hole at the center of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 powers a relativistic jet. Observations at millimeter wavelengths with the Event Horizon Telescope have localized the emission from the base of this jet to angular scales comparable to the putative black hole horizon. The jet might be powered directly by an accretion disk or by electromagnetic extraction of the rotational energy of the black hole. Read More

We describe a set of simulations of super-critical accretion onto a non-rotating supermassive BH. The accretion flow is radiation pressure dominated and takes the form of a geometrically thick disk with twin low-density funnels around the rotation axis. For accretion rates $\gtrsim 10 \dot M_{\rm Edd}$, there is sufficient gas in the funnel to make this region optically thick. Read More

Previous MHD simulations have shown that wind must exist in black hole hot accretion flows. In this paper, we continue our study by investigating the detailed properties of wind, such as mass flux and poloidal speed, and the mechanism of wind production. For this aim, we make use of a three dimensional GRMHD simulation of hot accretion flows around a Schwarzschild black hole. Read More

In systems accreting well below the Eddington rate, the plasma in the innermost regions of the disk is collisionless and two-temperature, with the ions hotter than the electrons. Yet, whether a collisionless faster-than-Coulomb energy transfer mechanism exists in two-temperature accretion flows is still an open question. We study the physics of electron heating during the growth of ion velocity-space instabilities, by means of multi-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. Read More

Affiliations: 1Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 2Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 3Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, 4Institute for Theory and Computation, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 5MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research

Recent advances in general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations have expanded and improved our understanding of the dynamics of black-hole accretion disks. However, current simulations do not capture the thermodynamics of electrons in the low density accreting plasma. This poses a significant challenge in predicting accretion flow images and spectra from first principles. Read More

The transient Swift J1644+57 is believed to have been produced by an unlucky star wandering too close to a supermassive black hole (BH) leading to a tidal disruption event. This unusual flare displayed highly super-Eddington X-ray emission which likely originated in a relativistic, collimated jet. This presents challenges to modern accretion and jet theory as upper limits of prior BH activity, which we obtain from the radio afterglow of this event, imply that both the pre-disruption BH and stellar magnetic fluxes fall many orders of magnitude short of what is required to power the observed X-ray luminosity. Read More

Electron acceleration to non-thermal energies is known to occur in low Mach number (M<5) shocks in galaxy clusters and solar flares, but the electron acceleration mechanism remains poorly understood. Using two-dimensional (2D) particle-in-cell (PIC) plasma simulations, we showed in Paper I that electrons are efficiently accelerated in low Mach number (M=3) quasi-perpendicular shocks via a Fermi-like process. The electrons bounce between the upstream region and the shock front, with each reflection at the shock resulting in energy gain via shock drift acceleration. Read More

Observations of the black hole in the center of the Milky Way with the Event Horizon Telescope at 1.3 mm have revealed a size of the emitting region that is smaller than the size of the black-hole shadow. This can be reconciled with the spectral properties of the source, if the accretion flow is seen at a relatively high inclination (50-60 degrees). Read More

The image of the emission surrounding the black hole in the center of the Milky Way is predicted to exhibit the imprint of general relativistic (GR) effects, including the existence of a shadow feature and a photon ring of diameter ~50 microarcseconds. Structure on these scales can be resolved by millimeter-wavelength very long baseline interferometry (VLBI). However, strong-field GR features of interest will be blurred at lambda >= 1. Read More

We present a sub-grid model that emulates the magnetic dynamo operating in magnetized accretion disks. We have implemented this model in the general relativisic radiation magnetohydrodynamic (GRRMHD) code \koral, using results from local shearing sheet simulations of the magnetorotational instability to fix the parameters of the dynamo. With the inclusion of this dynamo, we are able to run 2D axisymmetric GRRMHD simulations of accretion disks for arbitrarily long times. Read More

The formation of purely baryonic globular clusters with no gravitationally bound dark matter is still a theoretical challenge. We show that these objects might form naturally whenever there is a relative stream velocity between baryons and dark matter. The stream velocity causes a phase shift between linear modes of baryonic and dark matter perturbations, which translates to a spatial offset between the two components when they collapse. Read More

Electron acceleration to non-thermal energies in low Mach number (M<5) shocks is revealed by radio and X-ray observations of galaxy clusters and solar flares, but the electron acceleration mechanism remains poorly understood. Diffusive shock acceleration, also known as first-order Fermi acceleration, cannot be directly invoked to explain the acceleration of electrons. Rather, an additional mechanism is required to pre-accelerate the electrons from thermal to supra-thermal energies, so they can then participate in the Fermi process. Read More

Collisionless shocks in plasmas play an important role in space physics (Earth's bow shock) and astrophysics (supernova remnants, relativistic jets, gamma-ray bursts, high energy cosmic rays). While the formation of a fluid shock through the steepening of a large amplitude sound wave has been understood for long, there is currently no detailed picture of the mechanism responsible for the formation of a collisionless shock. We unravel the physical mechanism at work and show that an electromagnetic Weibel shock always forms when two relativistic collisionless, initially unmagnetized, plasma shells encounter. Read More

We propose here that the well-known black hole paradoxes such as the information loss and teleological nature of the event horizon are restricted to a particular idealized case, which is the homogeneous dust collapse model. In this case, the event horizon, which defines the boundary of the black hole, forms initially, and the singularity in the interior of the black hole at a later time. We show that, in contrast, gravitational collapse from physically more realistic initial conditions typically leads to the scenario in which the event horizon and space-time singularity form simultaneously. Read More

Black hole accretion flows can be divided into two broad classes: cold and hot. Cold accretion flows, which consist of cool optically thick gas, are found at relatively high mass accretion rates. Prominent examples are the standard thin disk, which occurs at a fraction of the Eddington mass accretion rate, and the slim disk at super-Eddington rates. Read More

Astronomers have discovered two populations of black holes: (i) stellar-mass black holes with masses in the range 5 to 30 solar masses, millions of which are present in each galaxy in the universe, and (ii) supermassive black holes with masses in the range 10^6 to 10^{10} solar masses, one each in the nucleus of every galaxy. There is strong circumstantial evidence that all these objects are true black holes with event horizons. The measured masses of supermassive black hole are strongly correlated with properties of their host galaxies, suggesting that these black holes, although extremely small in size, have a strong influence on the formation and evolution of entire galaxies. Read More

Black hole (BH) accretion flows and jets are dynamic hot relativistic magnetized plasma flows whose radiative opacity can significantly affect flow structure and behavior. We describe a numerical scheme, tests, and an astrophysically relevant application using the M1 radiation closure within a new three-dimensional (3D) general relativistic (GR) radiation (R) magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) massively parallel code called HARMRAD. Our 3D GRRMHD simulation of super-Eddington accretion (about $20$ times Eddington) onto a rapidly rotating BH (dimensionless spin $j=0. Read More

Black hole binaries exhibit a wide range of variability phenomena, from large-scale state changes to broadband noise and quasi-periodic oscillations, but the physical nature of much of this variability is poorly understood. We examine the variability properties of three GRMHD simulations of thin accretion disks around black holes of varying spin, producing light curves and power spectra as would be seen by observers. We find that the simulated power spectra show a broad feature at high frequency, which increases in amplitude with the inclination of the observer. Read More

General relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) simulations are providing influential models for black hole spin measurements, gamma ray bursts, and supermassive black hole feedback. Many of these simulations use the same initial condition: a rotating torus of fluid in hydrostatic equilibrium. A persistent concern is that simulation results sometimes depend on arbitrary features of the initial torus. Read More

Recently it has been observed that the scaling of jet power with black hole spin in galactic X-ray binaries is consistent with the predictions of the Blandford-Znajek (BZ) jet model. These observations motivate us to revisit the BZ model using general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations of magnetized jets from accreting (h/r ~ 0.3), spinning (0 < a_* < 0. Read More

The standard thin accretion disc model predicts that discs around stellar mass black holes become radiation pressure dominated and thermally unstable once their luminosity exceeds L>0.02 L_Edd. Observationally, discs in the high/soft state of X-ray binaries show little variability in the range 0. Read More

We show that, in principle, a slowly evolving gravitationally collapsing perfect fluid cloud can asymptotically settle to a static spherically symmetric equilibrium configuration with a naked singularity at the center. We consider one such asymptotic final configuration with a finite outer radius, and construct a toy model in which it is matched to a Schwarzschild exterior geometry. We examine the properties of circular orbits in this model. Read More

Magnetic fields appear to be present in all galaxies and galaxy clusters. Recent measurements indicate that a weak magnetic field may be present even in the smooth low density intergalactic medium. One explanation for these observations is that a seed magnetic field was generated by some unknown mechanism early in the life of the Universe, and was later amplified by various dynamos in nonlinear objects like galaxies and clusters. Read More

It has for long been an article of faith among astrophysicists that black hole spin energy is responsible for powering the relativistic jets seen in accreting black holes. Two recent advances have strengthened the case. First, numerical general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations of accreting spinning black holes show that relativistic jets form spontaneously. Read More

The spins of ten stellar black holes have been measured using the continuum-fitting method. These black holes are located in two distinct classes of X-ray binary systems, one that is persistently X-ray bright and another that is transient. Both the persistent and transient black holes remain for long periods in a state where their spectra are dominated by a thermal accretion disk component. Read More

A numerical scheme is described for including radiation in multi-dimensional general-relativistic conservative fluid dynamics codes. In this method, a covariant form of the M1 closure scheme is used to close the radiation moments, and the radiative source terms are treated semi-implicitly in order to handle both optically thin and optically thick regimes. The scheme has been implemented in a conservative general relativistic radiation hydrodynamics code KORAL. Read More

Using 5 GHz radio luminosity at light-curve maximum as a proxy for jet power and black-hole spin measurements obtained via the continuum-fitting method, Narayan & McClintock (2012) presented the first direct evidence for a relationship between jet power and black hole spin for four transient black-hole binaries. We test and confirm their empirical relationship using a fifth source, H1743-322, whose spin was recently measured. We show that this relationship is consistent with Fe-line spin measurements provided that the black hole spin axis is assumed to be aligned with the binary angular momentum axis. Read More

Almost all hydrodynamic accretion disk models parametrize viscosity with the dimensionless parameter alpha. There is no detailed model for alpha, so it is usually taken to be a constant. However, global simulations of magnetohydrodynamic disks find that alpha varies with distance from the central object. Read More

A dense ionized cloud of gas has been recently discovered to be moving directly toward the supermassive black hole, Sgr A*, at the Galactic Center. In June 2013, at the pericenter of its highly eccentric orbit, the cloud will be approximately 3100 Schwarzschild radii from the black hole and will move supersonically through the ambient hot gas with a velocity of v_p ~ 5400 km/s. A bow shock is likely to form in front of the cloud and could accelerate electrons to relativistic energies. Read More

We present results from two long-duration GRMHD simulations of advection-dominated accretion around a non-spinning black hole. The first simulation was designed to avoid significant accumulation of magnetic flux around the black hole. This simulation was run for a time of 200,000GM/c^3 and achieved inflow equilibrium out to a radius \sim90GM/c^2. Read More

Recent advances in general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic modeling of jets offer unprecedented insights into the inner workings of accreting black holes that power the jets in active galactic nuclei (AGN) and other accretion systems. I will present the results of recent studies that determine spin-dependence of jet power and discuss the implications for the AGN radio loud/quiet dichotomy and recent observations of high jet power in a number of AGN. Read More