Black Hole Astrophysics: The Engine Paradigm
The first time I heard the word “engine” applied to a black hole system was in a talk at the Santa CruzWorkshop on Quasars and Active Galaxies in the summer of 1978. The late Donald Osterbrock, then at UCSC, was explaining how the ionizing ultraviolet continuum from a “central engine” was responsible for producing the strong broad and narrow emission lines observed in the optical and ultraviolet spectra of active galactic nuclei. The only earlier such reference that I have been able to find is in an article by Franco Pacini in another conference proceedings that same year.
In those days the term was considered little more than a metaphor. It described the mysterious black box at the center of a radio galaxy or quasar that produced all the energy we observed, but whose inner workings were not understood. One of the purposes of this book is to show how prescient this term was and how close to a standard internal combustion engine black hole systems really are.
The primary purpose of this book, however, is to discuss astrophysical black hole systems of all known masses as a single class of objects, governed by the same basic physics and exhibiting the same basic behavior. This text is divided into three parts: (I) observations, (II) physics, and (III) astrophysics of black hole engines. Here “physics” refers to how a completely isolated black hole is structured, while “astrophysics” refers to how black hole engines interact with their environment. Despite its attempt to be comprehensive (which it does not quite achieve), the book endeavors to be as simple and straightforward as possible in all the discussions. In general, an expert in a particular subfield of black hole research may be disappointed that his or her subfield is treated with insufficient depth. This is intentional in a book of this breadth. The hope, instead, is that most aspects of black hole research are represented and discussed with sufficient depth that the reader will be able to consult more specialized texts and papers for more detailed information. Here the focus is on first demonstrating and explaining the basic concepts; computational tools also are provided, but there are no worked problems in this edition.
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