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  1. Abstract

    Active galactic nuclei in general, and the supermassive black hole in M87 in particular, show bright and rapid gamma-ray flares up to energies of 100 GeV and above. For M87, the flares show multiwavelength components, and the variability timescale is comparable to the dynamical time of the event horizon, suggesting that the emission may come from a compact region near the nucleus. However, the emission mechanism for these flares is not well understood. Recent high-resolution general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations show the occurrence of episodic magnetic reconnection events that can power flares near the black hole event horizon. In this work, we analyze the radiative properties of the reconnecting current layer under the extreme plasma conditions applicable to the black hole in M87 from first principles. We show that abundant pair production is expected in the vicinity of the reconnection layer, to the extent that the produced secondary pair plasma dominates the reconnection dynamics. Using analytic estimates backed by two-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, we demonstrate that in the presence of strong synchrotron cooling, reconnection can produce a hard power-law distribution of pair plasma imprinted in the outgoing synchrotron (up to a few tens of MeV) and the inverse-Compton signal (up to TeV).more »We produce synthetic radiation spectra from our simulations, which can be directly compared with the results of future multiwavelength observations of M87* flares.

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  2. Abstract Magnetic reconnection can power bright, rapid flares originating from the inner magnetosphere of accreting black holes. We conduct extremely high-resolution (5376 × 2304 × 2304 cells) general-relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations, capturing plasmoid-mediated reconnection in a 3D magnetically arrested disk for the first time. We show that an equatorial, plasmoid-unstable current sheet forms in a transient, nonaxisymmetric, low-density magnetosphere within the inner few Schwarzschild radii. Magnetic flux bundles escape from the event horizon through reconnection at the universal plasmoid-mediated rate in this current sheet. The reconnection feeds on the highly magnetized plasma in the jets and heats the plasma that ends up trapped in flux bundles to temperatures proportional to the jet’s magnetization. The escaped flux bundles can complete a full orbit as low-density hot spots, consistent with Sgr A* observations by the GRAVITY interferometer. Reconnection near the horizon produces sufficiently energetic plasma to explain flares from accreting black holes, such as the TeV emission observed from M87. The drop in the mass accretion rate during the flare and the resulting low-density magnetosphere make it easier for very-high-energy photons produced by reconnection-accelerated particles to escape. The extreme-resolution results in a converged plasmoid-mediated reconnection rate that directly determines the timescales and propertiesmore »of the flare.« less
  3. Alfvén wave collisions are the primary building blocks of the non-relativistic turbulence that permeates the heliosphere and low- to moderate-energy astrophysical systems. However, many astrophysical systems such as gamma-ray bursts, pulsar and magnetar magnetospheres and active galactic nuclei have relativistic flows or energy densities. To better understand these high-energy systems, we derive reduced relativistic magnetohydrodynamics equations and employ them to examine weak Alfvénic turbulence, dominated by three-wave interactions, in reduced relativistic magnetohydrodynamics, including the force-free, infinitely magnetized limit. We compare both numerical and analytical solutions to demonstrate that many of the findings from non-relativistic weak turbulence are retained in relativistic systems. But, an important distinction in the relativistic limit is the inapplicability of a formally incompressible limit, i.e. there exists finite coupling to the compressible fast mode regardless of the strength of the magnetic field. Since fast modes can propagate across field lines, this mechanism provides a route for energy to escape strongly magnetized systems, e.g. magnetar magnetospheres. However, we find that the fast-Alfvén coupling is diminished in the limit of oblique propagation.
  4. Alfvén waves as excited in black hole accretion disks and neutron star magnetospheres are the building blocks of turbulence in relativistic, magnetized plasmas. A large reservoir of magnetic energy is available in these systems, such that the plasma can be heated significantly even in the weak turbulence regime. We perform high-resolution three-dimensional simulations of counter-propagating Alfvén waves, showing that an $E_{B_{\perp }}(k_{\perp }) \propto k_{\perp }^{-2}$ energy spectrum develops as a result of the weak turbulence cascade in relativistic magnetohydrodynamics and its infinitely magnetized (force-free) limit. The plasma turbulence ubiquitously generates current sheets, which act as locations where magnetic energy dissipates. We show that current sheets form as a natural result of nonlinear interactions between counter-propagating Alfvén waves. These current sheets form owing to the compression of elongated eddies, driven by the shear induced by growing higher-order modes, and undergo a thinning process until they break-up into small-scale turbulent structures. We explore the formation of current sheets both in overlapping waves and in localized wave packet collisions. The relativistic interaction of localized Alfvén waves induces both Alfvén waves and fast waves, and efficiently mediates the conversion and dissipation of electromagnetic energy in astrophysical systems. Plasma energization through reconnection in currentmore »sheets emerging during the interaction of Alfvén waves can potentially explain X-ray emission in black hole accretion coronae and neutron star magnetospheres.« less
  5. Context. Realistic synthetic observations of theoretical source models are essential for our understanding of real observational data. In using synthetic data, one can verify the extent to which source parameters can be recovered and evaluate how various data corruption effects can be calibrated. These studies are the most important when proposing observations of new sources, in the characterization of the capabilities of new or upgraded instruments, and when verifying model-based theoretical predictions in a direct comparison with observational data. Aims. We present the SYnthetic Measurement creator for long Baseline Arrays ( SYMBA ), a novel synthetic data generation pipeline for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations. SYMBA takes into account several realistic atmospheric, instrumental, and calibration effects. Methods. We used SYMBA to create synthetic observations for the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a millimetre VLBI array, which has recently captured the first image of a black hole shadow. After testing SYMBA with simple source and corruption models, we study the importance of including all corruption and calibration effects, compared to the addition of thermal noise only. Using synthetic data based on two example general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics (GRMHD) model images of M 87, we performed case studies to assess the image qualitymore »that can be obtained with the current and future EHT array for different weather conditions. Results. Our synthetic observations show that the effects of atmospheric and instrumental corruptions on the measured visibilities are significant. Despite these effects, we demonstrate how the overall structure of our GRMHD source models can be recovered robustly with the EHT2017 array after performing calibration steps, which include fringe fitting, a priori amplitude and network calibration, and self-calibration. With the planned addition of new stations to the EHT array in the coming years, images could be reconstructed with higher angular resolution and dynamic range. In our case study, these improvements allowed for a distinction between a thermal and a non-thermal GRMHD model based on salient features in reconstructed images.« less