Effect of stars on the dark matter spike around a black hole: A tale of two treatments

Stuart L. Shapiro, Douglas C. Heggie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We revisit the role that gravitational scattering off stars plays in establishing the steady-state distribution of collisionless dark matter (DM) around a massive black hole (BH). This is a physically interesting problem that has potentially observable signatures, such as γ rays from DM annihilation in a density spike. The system serves as a laboratory for comparing two different dynamical approaches, both of which have been widely used: a Fokker-Planck treatment and a two-component conduction fluid treatment. In our Fokker-Planck analysis we extend a previous analytic model to account for a nonzero flux of DM particles into the BH, as well as a cutoff in the distribution function near the BH due to relativistic effects or, further out, possible DM annihilation. In our two-fluid analysis, following an approximate analytic treatment, we recast the equations as a "heated Bondi accretion"problem and solve the equations numerically without approximation. While both the Fokker-Planck and two-fluid methods yield basically the same DM density and velocity dispersion profiles away from the boundaries in the spike interior, there are other differences, especially the determination of the DM accretion rate. We discuss limitations of the two treatments, including the assumption of an isotropic velocity dispersion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043018
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 15 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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