Pair production in low-luminosity galactic nuclei

M. Mościbrodzka, C. F. Gammie, J. C. Dolence, H. Shiokawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electron-positron pairs may be produced near accreting black holes by a variety of physical processes, and the resulting pair plasma may be accelerated and collimated into a relativistic jet. Here, we use a self-consistent dynamical and radiative model to investigate pair production by γγ collisions in weakly radiative accretion flows around a black hole of mass M and accretion rate . Our flow model is drawn from general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations, and our radiation field is computed by a Monte Carlo transport scheme assuming the electron distribution function is thermal. We argue that the pair production rate scales as . We confirm this numerically and calibrate the scaling relation. This relation is self-consistent in a wedge in parameter space. If is too low the implied pair density over the poles of the black hole is below the Goldreich-Julian density and γγ pair production is relatively unimportant; if is too high the models are radiatively efficient. We also argue that for a power-law spectrum the pair production rate should scale with the observables LX ≡ X-ray luminosity and M as L 2 X M -4. We confirm this numerically and argue that this relation likely holds even for radiatively efficient flows. The pair production rates are sensitive to black hole spin and to the ion-electron temperature ratio which are fixed in this exploratory calculation. We finish with a brief discussion of the implications for Sgr A* and M87.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011


  • Galaxy: center
  • accretion, accretion disks
  • black hole physics
  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
  • radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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