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An Analysis of X-Ray Photon Count Rate from Supermassive and Stellar Black Hole Accretion Disks

An Analysis of X-Ray Photon Count Rate from Supermassive and Stellar Black Hole Accretion Disks

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Published by Kevin Readen
This is the presentation paper for my participation in the international Space Olympics (ISO) in Korolyov, Russia, 2012. I received second place in Astrophysics. My paper was on my attempt to discover whether the mass of a black hole affects the rate at which its accretion disk emits x-ray photons.
This is the presentation paper for my participation in the international Space Olympics (ISO) in Korolyov, Russia, 2012. I received second place in Astrophysics. My paper was on my attempt to discover whether the mass of a black hole affects the rate at which its accretion disk emits x-ray photons.

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Published by: Kevin Readen on May 06, 2013
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An Analysis of X-Ray Photon Count Rate from Supermassive and Stellar Black HoleAccretion DisksKevin ReadenLoudoun County Academy of ScienceUnited StatesContext Statement:This project has been an exploration into research like that which I would like toaccomplish as a student at an institute of higher education. Astrophysics has always beenan area of interest for me, and the chance to do pre-college research work in this field has provided me with experiences and skills which I will use during my journey to a degree.AbstractI studied whether the mass of a black hole affects the rate at which its accretiondisk emits x-ray photons. I analyzed light curves from the All Sky Monitor to determinehow well a lognormal distribution function fits the rate of emission and if there is astatistically significant difference between the lognormal distributions for accretion disksof black holes of different masses. In particular, I looked at the effect of the mass of the
 
 black hole on the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean of the lognormaldistributions. I compared the ratio for stellar black holes to the ratio for supermassive black holes. Using a two-tailed t-test to determine independence, I found that there is nostatistical evidence of difference between stellar and supermassive black holes.IntroductionA black hole consists of what is known as a singularity and its local accretiondisk. A singularity is a "point" with infinite density created when a star collapses intoitself upon using up all its fuel (Benjamin, 1997). This singularity with infinite densityhas such a powerful gravitational pull on its surroundings that it bends space into itself,creating with this gravitational force what is known as an accretion disk of local material.An accretion disk is created when one stellar entity accretes, or gathers, material fromanother celestial object. This material, usually gas, cannot escape the pull of the black hole but cannot fall directly into its source either, creating a swirling effect like water going down a drain. This swirling causes a “friction,” which in turn causes this gas to become extremely hot, giving off energy in the form of x-rays that can be used to studythese disks (Krimm, 2000). This friction, or rather the gaining of energy the particles gothrough, is thought by me to be attributed to Compton up-scattering. This is a process inwhich lower-energy particles are hit by a high-energy electron and gain energy,
 
 becoming X-ray photons. Up-scattering is the opposite of the original Comptonscattering, where particles let loose an electron and lose energy (Compton, 1923). Thisaccretion disk's emission of x-rays provides an opportunity to study these disks, the black holes themselves, and how their count rates fluctuate or differ. Already studies have beenconducted analyzing x-ray observations from accretion disks around black holes,specifically for the purpose of creating a more precise manner of modeling black holeaccretion disks (Kawaguchi, & Ebisawa, 2006). Many of these studies are looking at fluxor spectral data in trying to potentially determine the mass of any black hole looked at(Soria, & Kuncic, 2008) (Poutanen, 2001).Further research in this area may include analysis of known properties of black holes and their accretion disks, including phenomena that occur in strong gravitationalfields with line analysis, quantitative analysis of x-ray emission, and a new frontier for the subject: attempts to measure black hole spin (McClintock, & Remillard, 2006). Thisstudy tells of how almost all Black Hole Binaries (BHBs) - those black holes formedwhen one star of a pair in a system turns into a black hole as it runs out of fuel faster thanthe other - are x-ray novae. That means that they emit energy in the form of x-rays. Asthese BHBs are noticed and monitored by wide-field x-ray cameras on orbiting satellites,(McClintock, & Remillard, 2006) it is observed that they go through periodic outbursts of x-rays caused most likely by insufficient rates of flow of matter from the donor star to thecompact object. The outer accretion rings fill up -- but not the inner ring -- until it reachesa critical point (McClintock, & Remillard, 2006). The studies incorporate luminosity aswell as count rate of x-ray photons, but for this study I will be examining the count rateof the x-ray photons only. I will be taking data from NASA and analyzing both individual

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