Amazing Light pp 343-350 | Cite as

Infrared Emission and H20 Masers around Massive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei

  • David J. Hollenbach
  • Philip R. Maloney


Many galaxies exhibit evidence for nonstellar sources of energy in their centers [1]. The most extreme examples of these active galactic nuclei (AGN)—quasars— reach extraordinary luminosities, exceeding 1047 erg s–1 (about 1013 times the luminosity of the Sun). Time-variability arguments indicate that this energy must arise in very compact regions (≲ 1016 cm). The generally accepted mechanism for powering AGN is accretion of gas onto a massive black hole: a central black hole of mass 106 — 109 solar masses (M) is surrounded by an orbiting accretion disk which may extend ~ 0.1 — 1 pc (1 pc is about 3 light-years) from the black hole. Gaseous material spirals through this disk onto the black hole at rates M ~ 10–4—1 M yr–1, and a fraction 蜒 ~ 0.1 of the gravitational rest-mass energy is converted to radiation [2].


Black Hole Accretion Disk Active Galactic Nucleus Column Density Massive Black Hole 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Hollenbach
  • Philip R. Maloney

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