University of Toronto
Over the last decade or so, dozens of x-ray or optical transient events have been detected towards the centers of (typically) low mass galaxies. They have been interpreted as the disruption of solar mass stars by the central supermassive black holes believed to lie in the centers of most galaxies. Such events were predicted in the 1970s. Early work indicated that the emission would be thermal, with temperatures of order 50 eV, arising from an accretion disk with an inner edge at or near the innermost stable circular orbit of the black hole, and would last a month or so. Loeb and Ulmer suggested that this disk radiation would be reprocessed into the near infrared, and that the event would last a decade or so. Early detections by ROSAT had spectral energy distributions (SEDs) dominated by soft x-rays. More recent events have been detected by optical transient surveys, and have SEDs dominated by UV emission. I will revisit the reprocessing arguments, and show that they actually predict that the emission should be in the UV rather than the near IR, and they further explain the observed constant effective temperature maintained while the luminosity first increases by a factor of ten, then decreases by a factor of 100.
Black Hole Initiative
We consider a rapidly spinning black hole surrounded by an equatorial, geometrically thin, slowly accreting disk that is stationary and axisymmetric. We analytically compute the broadening of electromagnetic line emissions from the innermost part of the disk, which resides in the near-horizon region. The result is independent of the details of the disk model and therefore universal. This is an example of critical behavior in astronomy that is potentially observable by current or future telescopes.