Minidisks in Binary Black Hole Accretion

Geoffrey Ryan, Andrew MacFadyen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Newtonian simulations have demonstrated that accretion onto binary black holes produces accretion disks around each black hole ("minidisks"), fed by gas streams flowing through the circumbinary cavity from the surrounding circumbinary disk. We study the dynamics and radiation of an individual black hole minidisk using 2D hydrodynamical simulations performed with a new general relativistic version of the moving-mesh code Disco. We introduce a comoving energy variable that enables highly accurate integration of these high Mach number flows. Tidally induced spiral shock waves are excited in the disk and propagate through the innermost stable circular orbit, providing a Reynolds stress that causes efficient accretion by purely hydrodynamic means and producing a radiative signature brighter in hard X-rays than the Novikov-Thorne model. Disk cooling is provided by a local blackbody prescription that allows the disk to evolve self-consistently to a temperature profile where hydrodynamic heating is balanced by radiative cooling. We find that the spiral shock structure is in agreement with the relativistic dispersion relation for tightly wound linear waves. We measure the shock-induced dissipation and find outward angular momentum transport corresponding to an effective alpha parameter of order 0.01. We perform ray-tracing image calculations from the simulations to produce theoretical minidisk spectra and viewing-angle-dependent images for comparison with observations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number199
    JournalAstrophysical Journal
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


    • accretion, accretion disks
    • hydrodynamics
    • shock waves
    • stars: black holes

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Astronomy and Astrophysics
    • Space and Planetary Science


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