January 15, 1997
Explanation: What does a black hole look like? If alone, a black hole would indeed appear quite black, but many black hole candidates are part of binary star systems. So how does a black hole binary system look different from a neutron star binary system? The above drawings indicate it is difficult to tell! Recent theoretical work, however, has provided a new way to tell them apart: advective accretion flows (ADAFs). A black hole system so equipped would appear much darker than a similar neutron star system. The difference is caused by the hot gas from the ADAF disk falling through the event horizon of the black hole and disappearing - gas that would have emitted much light were the central object only a neutron star. Recent observations of the soft X-ray transient V404 Cyg has yielded a spectrum much like an ADAF onto a black hole - and perhaps brighter than allowable from an ADAF onto a neutron star.
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.