Super-Eddington Mechanical Power of an Accreting Black Hole in M83

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Science  21 Mar 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6177, pp. 1330-1333
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248759

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There Goes the Neighborhood

A mass-accreting black hole in steady-state cannot produce more radiative energy than its gravity can counterbalance, achieving what is known as the Eddington limit. However, mass accretion can also be converted into kinetic energy via mechanical outflow. Using x-ray observations, Soria et al. (p. 1330, published online 27 February; see the Perspective by King and the cover) identified a compact shock-ionized radio/optical nebula in spiral galaxy M83, powered by a black hole, inferred that the black hole emits a spherical wind that exceeds the Eddington limit tenfold and succeeded in estimating it's mass in the range of 5 to 15 solar masses. It is possible that rapidly accreting black holes have greater influence on their host galaxy than once appreciated.


Mass accretion onto black holes releases energy in the form of radiation and outflows. Although the radiative flux cannot substantially exceed the Eddington limit, at which the outgoing radiation pressure impedes the inflow of matter, it remains unclear whether the kinetic energy flux is bounded by this same limit. Here, we present the detection of a radio-optical structure, powered by outflows from a non-nuclear black hole. Its accretion disk properties indicate that this black hole is less than 100 solar masses. The optical-infrared line emission implies an average kinetic power of 3 × 1040 erg second–1, higher than the Eddington luminosity of the black hole. These results demonstrate kinetic power exceeding the Eddington limit over a sustained period, which implies greater ability to influence the evolution of the black hole’s environment.

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