Special Reviews

Black Hole Accretion

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Science  07 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5706, pp. 77-80
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105746

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Black holes are most often detected by the radiation produced when they gravitationally pull in surrounding gas, in a process called accretion. The efficiency with which the hot gas radiates its thermal energy strongly influences the geometry and dynamics of the accretion flow. Both radiatively efficient thin disks and radiatively inefficient thick disks are observed. When the accreting gas gets close to the central black hole, the radiation it produces becomes sensitive to the spin of the hole and the presence of an event horizon. Analysis of the luminosities and spectra of accreting black holes has yielded tantalizing evidence for both rotating holes and event horizons. Numerical simulations imply that the relativistic jets often seen from accreting black holes may be powered in part by the spin of the hole.

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