When Stars, Disks, and Black Holes Meet, Outbursts Follow

A pair of astronomers, including Itai Linial from the Institute's School of Natural Sciences, "have discovered a handful of supermassive black holes that are associated with bursts of X-rays that recur every few hours or days." Linial's work on the project was conducted during his time as an IAS Member (2022–23).

The cause of these eruptions is not yet fully understood, but leading models suggest interactions between stars and supermassive black holes or objects accreting onto black holes. Linial and his collaborator Brian Metzger proposed a model where a star collides repeatedly with an accretion disk near a supermassive black hole, explaining the observed patterns in the eruptions. The brightness and timing of the flares depend on factors like the size and mass of the star and the rate of gas accretion by the black hole. Astronomers are exploring how to detect these X-ray outbursts at different wavelengths to gain further insights into this intriguing phenomenon.

Read more at AAS Nova.