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Published May 1, 2013 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

The runaway instability in general relativistic accretion discs


When an accretion disc falls prey to the runaway instability, a large portion of its mass is devoured by the black hole within a few dynamical times. Despite decades of effort, it is still unclear under what conditions such an instability can occur. The technically most advanced relativistic simulations to date were unable to find a clear sign for the onset of the instability. In this work, we present three-dimensional relativistic hydrodynamics simulations of accretion discs around black holes in dynamical space–time. We focus on the configurations that are expected to be particularly prone to the development of this instability. We demonstrate, for the first time, that the fully self-consistent general relativistic evolution does indeed produce a runaway instability.

Additional Information

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. Accepted 2013 January 27. Received 2013 January 24; in original form 2012 October 1. First published online: February 23, 2013. We acknowledge stimulating discussions with P. Diener, P. Montero, C. Reisswig, M. Scheel, B. Szilágyi and J. Tohline. This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers AST-1212170, PHY-1151197, PHY-1212460 and OCI-0905046, by the German Research Foundation grant DFGRO-3399, AOBJ-584282 and by the Sherman Fairchild and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. NS acknowledges support by an Excellence Grant of the research committee of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Supercomputing simulations for this paper were performed on the Compute Canada SHARCNET cluster 'Orca' (project CFZ-411-AA), Caltech compute cluster 'Zwicky' (NSF MRI award No. PHY-0960291), on the NSF XSEDE network under grant TG-PHY100033, on machines of the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative under grant loni_numrel07 and at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), which is supported by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy under contract DE-AC03-76SF00098.

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