Relativistic accretion disk models of high-state black hole X-ray binary spectra

Shane W. Davis, Omer M. Blaes, Ivan Hubeny, Neal J. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


We present calculations of non-LTE, relativistic accretion disk models applicable to the high/soft state of black hole X-ray binaries. We include the effects of thermal Comptonization and bound-free and free-free opacities of all abundant ion species. Taking into account the relativistic propagation of photons from the local disk surface to an observer at infinity, we present spectra calculated for a variety of accretion rates, black hole spin parameters, disk inclinations, and stress prescriptions. We also consider nonzero inner torques on the disk and explore different vertical dissipation profiles, including some that are motivated by recent radiation magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations of magnetorotational turbulence. Bound-free metal opacity generally produces significantly less spectral hardening than previous models that only considered Compton scattering and free-free opacity. We find that the resulting effective photosphere usually lies at a small fraction of the total column depth, producing spectra that are remarkably independent of the stress prescription and vertical structure assumptions. We provide detailed comparisons between our models and the widely used multicolor disk model. Frequency-dependent discrepancies exist that may affect the parameters of other spectral components when this simpler disk model is used to fit modern X-ray data. For a given source, our models predict that the luminosity in the high/soft state should approximately scale with the fourth power of the empirically inferred maximum temperature, but with a slight hardening at high luminosities. This is in good agreement with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)372-387
Number of pages16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Mar 1 2005


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Radiative transfer
  • X-rays: binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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