A Plasmoid model for the Sgr A∗ Flares Observed with Gravity and CHANDRA

David Ball, Feryal Özel, Pierre Christian, Chi Kwan Chan, Dimitrios Psaltis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The Galactic Center black hole Sgr A∗ shows significant variability and flares in the submillimeter, infrared, and X-ray wavelengths. Owing to its exquisite resolution in the IR bands, the GRAVITY experiment for the first time spatially resolved the locations of three flares and showed that a bright region moves in ellipse-like trajectories close to, but offset from, the black hole over the course of each event. We present a model for plasmoids that form during reconnection events and orbit in the coronal region around a black hole to explain these observations. We utilize general-relativistic radiative-transfer calculations that include effects from finite light travel time, plasmoid motion, particle acceleration, and synchrotron cooling, and obtain a rich structure in the flare light curves. This model can naturally account for the observed motion of the bright regions observed by the GRAVITY experiment and the offset between the center of the centroid motion and the position of the black hole. It also explains why some flares may be double peaked while others have only a single peak and uncovers a correlation between the structure in the light curve and the location of the flare. Finally, we make predictions for future observations of flares from the inner accretion flow of Sgr A∗ that will provide a test of this model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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