Brightness Asymmetry of Black Hole Images as a Probe of Observer Inclination

Lia Medeiros, Chi Kwan Chan, Ramesh Narayan, Feryal Ozel, Dimitrios Psaltis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The Event Horizon Telescope recently captured images of the supermassive black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy, which shows a ring-like emission structure with the south side only slightly brighter than the north side. This relatively weak asymmetry in the brightness profile along the ring has been interpreted as a consequence of the low inclination of the observer (around 17° for M87), which suppresses the Doppler beaming and boosting effects that might otherwise be expected due to the nearly relativistic velocities of the orbiting plasma. In this work, we use a large suite of general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations to reassess the validity of this argument. By constructing explicit counterexamples, we show that low inclination is a sufficient but not necessary condition for images to have low brightness asymmetry. Accretion flow models with high accumulated magnetic flux close to the black hole horizon (the so-called magnetically arrested disks) and low black hole spins have angular velocities that are substantially smaller than the orbital velocities of test particles at the same location. As a result, such models can produce images with low brightness asymmetry even when viewed edge on.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number46
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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