"Accretion onto black holes produces some of the most spectacular phenomena in the Universe, and provides an unparalleled laboratory for studying strong field gravity. Intensive monitoring of black holes over 8 decades in mass has established a rich data set with which to test accretion theory and probe strong gravity. At the same time, black hole accretion theory has made rapid progress in the last several years due to the development of realistic numerical simulations. Despite these advances, there is still a missing link between numerical simulations and observations of luminous black holes. This proposal aims to connect contemporary accretion and jet theory with observations of powerful outflows and quasi-periodic oscillations in accreting black hole systems.
First, I will develop an accretion disc model for the most luminous states of stellar mass black holes, including their high frequency quasi-periodic oscillations, motivated by simulations. I will test the model through spectral fitting and timing analysis, and use it to make the first robust black hole spin estimates from observed QPOs. Second, I propose to study a large-scale magnetic reconnection mechanism for driving black hole state transitions and transient outflows. I will calculate images, light curves, and spectra from these outflows. Comparing the results to observations will test MHD jet formation theory and help to unify accreting black holes across the mass scale."
Call for proposal
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