Monday, July 15, 2013

1307.3246 (Christopher S. Reynolds)

The Spin of Supermassive Black Holes    [PDF]

Christopher S. Reynolds
Black hole spin is a quantity of great interest to both physicists and astrophysicists. We review the current status of spin measurements in supermassive black holes (SMBH). To date, every robust SMBH spin measurement uses X-ray reflection spectroscopy, so we focus almost exclusively on this technique as applied to moderately-luminous active galactic nuclei (AGN). After describing the foundations and uncertainties of the method, we summarize the current status of the field. At the time of writing, observations by XMM-Newton, Suzaku and NuSTAR have given robust spin constraints on 22 SMBHs. We find a significant number of rapidly-rotating SMBHs (with dimensionless spin parameters a>0.9) although, especially at the higher masses (M>4*10^7Msun), there are also some SMBHs with intermediate spin parameters. This may be giving us our first hint at a mass-dependent spin distribution which would, in turn, provide interesting constraints on models for SMBH growth. We also discuss the recent discovery of relativistic X-ray reverberation which we can use to "echo map" the innermost regions of the accretion disk. The ultimate development of these reverberation techniques, when applied to data from future high-throughput X-ray observatories such as LOFT, ATHENA+, and AXSIO, will permit the measurement of black hole spin by a characterization of strong-field Shapiro delays. We conclude with a brief discussion of other electromagnetic methods that have been attempted or are being developed to constrain SMBH spin.
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