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Quasi-Periodic Behavior of Mini-Disks in Binary Black Holes Approaching Merger
by Dennis B. Bowen, Vassilios Mewes, Manuela Campanelli, Scott C. Noble, Julian H. Krolik, Miguel Zilhao
Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters 853, L17 (Wednesday, January 24, 2018)


We present the first magnetohydrodynamic simulation in which a circumbinary disk around a relativistic binary black hole feeds mass to individual accretion disks ("mini-disks") around each black hole. Mass flow through the accretion streams linking the circumbinary disk to the mini-disks is modulated quasi-periodically by the streams' interaction with a nonlinear m=1 density feature, or "lump", at the inner edge of the circumbinary disk: the stream supplying each mini-disk comes into phase with the lump at a frequency 0.74 times the binary orbital frequency. Because the binary is relativistic, the tidal truncation radii of the mini-disks are not much larger than their innermost stable circular orbits; consequently, the mini-disks' inflow times are shorter than the conventional estimate and are comparable to the stream modulation period. As a result, the mini-disks are always in inflow disequilibrium, with their masses and spiral density wave structures responding to the stream's quasi-periodic modulation. The fluctuations in each mini-disk's mass are so large that as much as 75% of the total mini-disk mass can be contained within a single mini-disk. Such quasi-periodic modulation of the mini-disk structure may introduce distinctive time-dependent features in the binary's electromagnetic emission.

CCRG Authors

Bowen, Dennis โ€” Campanelli, Manuela โ€” Mewes, Vassilios