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Eddington luminosity

Eddington luminosity

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Published by Paul Muljadi
Eddington luminosity
Eddington luminosity

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Published by: Paul Muljadi on Dec 28, 2012
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Eddington luminosity


Eddington luminosity
The Eddington luminosity (also referred to as the Eddington limit) of a source is defined as the maximum luminosity where the continuum radiation force outwards balances the gravitational force inwards in hydrostatic equilibrium. When exceeding the Eddington luminosity, a star would initiate a very intense continuum-driven stellar wind from its outer layers. Since most massive stars have luminosities far below the Eddington luminosity, however, their winds are mostly driven by the less intense line absorption.[1] The Eddington limit is invoked to explain the observed luminosity of accreting black holes such as quasars. Originally, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington took only the electron scattering into account when calculating this limit, something that now is called the classical Eddington limit. Nowadays, the modified Eddington limit also counts on other continuum processes such as bound-free and free-free interaction.

The limit is obtained by setting the outward continuum radiation pressure equal to the inward gravitational force. Both forces decrease by inverse square laws, so once equality is reached, the hydrodynamic flow is different throughout the star. From the Euler's equation in hydrostatic equilibrium, the mean acceleration is zero,


is the velocity,

is the pressure,

is the density, and ,

is the gravitational potential. If the pressure is

dominated by radiation associated to a radiation flux


is the opacity of the stellar material. For ionized hydrogen

, where

is the Thomson

scattering cross-section for the electron and is the mass of a proton. The luminosity of a source bounded by a surface is

Now assuming that the opacity is a constant, it can be brought outside of the integral. Using Gauss's theorem and Poisson's equation gives


is the mass of the central object. This is called the Eddington Luminosity.[2] For pure ionized hydrogen


the mass of the Sun and

the luminosity of the Sun.

The maximum luminosity of a source in hydrostatic equilibrium is the Eddington luminosity. If the luminosity exceeds the Eddington limit, then the radiation pressure drives an outflow. Note that contrary to the standard misconception, the Eddington limit does not require spherical symmetry. Indeed, this limit is utilized for nonspherical systems such as accretion disks. The mass of the proton appears because, in the typical environment for the outer layers of a star, the radiation pressure acts on electrons, which are driven away from the center. Because protons are negligibly pressured by the

Eddington luminosity analog of Thomson scattering, due to their larger mass, the result is to create a slight charge separation and therefore a radially directed electric field, acting to lift the positive charges, which are typically free protons under the conditions in stellar atmospheres. When the outward electric field is sufficient to levitate the protons against gravity, both electrons and protons are expelled together.


Different limits for different materials
The derivation above for the outward light pressure assumes a hydrogen plasma. In other circumstances the pressure balance can be different than it is for hydrogen. In an evolved star with a pure helium atmosphere, the electric field would have to lift a helium nucleus (an alpha particle), with nearly 4 times the mass of a proton, while the radiation pressure would act on 2 free electrons. Thus twice the usual Eddington luminosity would be needed to drive off an atmosphere of pure helium. At very high temperatures, as in the environment of a black hole or neutron star, high energy photon interactions with nuclei or even with other photons, can create an electron-positron plasma. In that situation the mass of the neutralizing positive charge carriers is nearly 1836 times smaller (the proton to electron mass ratio), while the radiation pressure on the positrons doubles the effective upward force per unit mass, so the limiting luminosity needed is reduced by a factor of ≈1836/2=918. The exact value of the Eddington luminosity depends on the chemical composition of the gas layer and the spectral energy distribution of the emission. Gas with cosmological abundances of hydrogen and helium is much more transparent than gas with solar abundance ratios. Atomic line transitions can greatly increase the effects of radiation pressure, and line driven winds exist in some bright stars.

Super-Eddington luminosities
The role of the Eddington limit in today’s research lies in explaining the very high mass loss rates seen in for example the series of outbursts of η Carinae in 1840–1860.[3] The regular, line driven stellar winds can only stand for a mass loss rate of around 10−4–10−3 solar masses per year, whereas mass loss rates of up to 0.5 solar masses per year are needed to understand the η Carinae outbursts. This can be done with the help of the super-Eddington continuum driven winds. Gamma-ray bursts, novae and supernovae are examples of systems exceeding their Eddington luminosity by a large factor for very short times, resulting in short and highly intensive mass loss rates. Some X-ray binaries and active galaxies are able to maintain luminosities close to the Eddington limit for very long times. For accretion powered sources such as accreting neutron stars or cataclysmic variables (accreting white dwarfs), the limit may act to reduce or cut off the accretion flow, imposing an Eddington limit on accretion corresponding to that on luminosity. Super-Eddington accretion onto stellar-mass black holes is one possible model for ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). For accreting black holes, all the energy released by accretion does not have to appear as outgoing luminosity, since energy can be lost through the event horizon, down the hole. Such sources effectively may not conserve energy. Then the accretion efficiency, or the fraction of energy actually radiated of that theoretically available from the gravitational energy release of accreting material, enters in an essential way.

Eddington luminosity


Other factors
The Eddington limit is not a strict limit on the luminosity of a stellar object. The limit does not consider several potentially important factors, and super-Eddington objects have been observed that do not seem to have the predicted high mass-loss rate. Other factors that might affect the maximum luminosity of a star include: • Porosity. A problem with steady, continuum-driven winds is that both the radiative flux and gravitational acceleration scale with r−2. The ratio between these factors is constant, and in a super-Eddington star, the whole envelope would become gravitationally unbound at the same time. This is not observed. A possible solution is introducing an atmospheric porosity, where we imagine the stellar atmosphere to consist of denser regions surrounded by lower density gas regions. This would reduce the coupling between radiation and matter, and the full force of the radiation field would only be seen in the more homogeneous outer, lower density layers of the atmosphere. • Turbulence. A possible destabilizing factor might be the turbulent pressure arising when energy in the convection zones builds up a field of supersonic turbulence. The importance of turbulence is being debated, however.[4] • Photon bubbles. Another factor that might explain some stable super-Eddington objects is the photon bubble effect. Photon bubbles would develop spontaneously in radiation-dominated atmospheres when the magnetic pressure exceeds the gas pressure. We can imagine a region in the stellar atmosphere with a density lower than the surroundings, but with a higher radiation pressure. Such a region would rise through the atmosphere, with radiation diffusing in from the sides, leading to an even higher radiation pressure. This effect could transport radiation more efficiently than a homogeneous atmosphere, increasing the allowed total radiation rate. In accretion discs, luminosities may be as high as 10–100 times the Eddington limit without experiencing instabilities.[5]

[1] A. J. van Marle; S. P. Owocki; N. J. Shaviv (2008). "Continuum driven winds from super-Eddington stars. A tale of two limits". AIP Conference Proceedings 990: 250–253. arXiv:0708.4207. Bibcode 2008AIPC..990..250V. doi:10.1063/1.2905555. [2] Rybicki, G.B., Lightman, A.P.: Radiative Processes in Astrophysics, New York: J. Wiley & Sons 1979. [3] N. Smith; S. P. Owocki (2006). "On the role of continuum driven eruptions in the evolution of very massive stars and population III stars". Astrophysical Journal 645 (1): L45–L48. arXiv:astro-ph/0606174. Bibcode 2006ApJ...645L..45S. doi:10.1086/506523. [4] R. B. Stothers (2003). "Turbulent pressure in the envelopes of yellow hypergiants and luminous blue variables". Astrophysical Journal 589 (2): 960–967. Bibcode 2003ApJ...589..960S. doi:10.1086/374713. [5] J. Arons (1992). "Photon bubbles: Overstability in a magnetized atmosphere". Astrophysical Journal 388: 561–578. Bibcode 1992ApJ...388..561A. doi:10.1086/171174.

• Juhan Frank, Andrew King, Derek Raine (2002). Accretion Power in Astrophysics (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62957-8.

External links
• Surpassing the Eddington Limit (http://www.sciencebits.com/SurpassingEddington).

Article Sources and Contributors


Article Sources and Contributors
Eddington luminosity  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=517403947  Contributors: 11cookeaw1, Ahpook, Alfio, Aristotle socrates, Arthur Rubin, Ataleh, AtoMicUnit, Bkocsis, Boulderinionian, Bryan Derksen, Caid Raspa, ChowRiit, ClovisHopman, ConradPino, Dmmaus, Doradus, Dr. Submillimeter, Druzhnik, Fredrik.Windmark, Furrykef, Giftlite, Hellbus, Inquisitus, Jeff3000, Looxix, MarchHare, Markus Poessel, Mnmngb, Quaoar, Reyk, Rjwilmsi, Scog, Sfuerst, Sl, Stanlekub, Tevatron, The Sanity Inspector, Tom Lougheed, Wwheaton, Ygrange, Zzzzzzzzzzz, 32 anonymous edits

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