Measuring Spins of Stellar-Mass Black Holes with X-ray Spectroscopy

Bok Prize Lecture
Thursday, February 6, 2020 - 4:00pm
Phillips Auditorium
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

One of the most remarkable properties of an astrophysical black hole is that it can be completely described by just its mass and spin. Knowledge of spin is fundamental for testing how black holes form, for testing the production of relativistic jets, for producing GRBs, and more. X-ray techniques measure black-hole spin by measuring the inner radius of the accretion disk, which corresponds to the innermost stable circular orbit (ISCO). I will describe the foundation of these measurements and summarize our progress, highlighting where we stand 15-years into the field, having achieved a census comprised of several dozen black holes in our Galaxy and Local Group. This talk is dedicated to the memory of Jeff McClintock, whose vision and indomitable curiosity drove him to discover all that could be known about a black hole.

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