Supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies power some of the brightest objects we see in the Universe; active galactic nuclei (AGN). Much remains unknown, however, about exactly how energy is released from the material falling in through the accretion disc, and from the black hole itself, to form the powerful X-ray corona and to launch jets at almost the speed of light.
A three-dimensional picture is starting to emerge of the extreme environments around black holes from the reflection and reverberation of X-rays off the inner regions of the accretion disc. Analysis of the reflected X-rays, compared to the predictions of general relativistic ray tracing simulations, enables the structure of the corona and accretion disc to be mapped. We are discovering, for the first time, structure within the corona including a persistent collimated core akin to the base of a jet, even in radio-quiet sources.
The reverberation of X-ray flares is letting us see the corona evolve in real time and witness the effects of strong gravity and general relativity as the X-rays are bent around the black hole. This gives us important insight into the small-scale processes close to the event horizon that allow black holes to power these extreme objects and play their important feedback role in the formation of structure in the Universe.
Speaker: Dan Wilkins, KIPAC
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