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Accretion disk winds as the jet suppression mechanism in the microquasar GRS 1915+105


Stellar-mass black holes with relativistic jets, also known as microquasars, mimic the behaviour of quasars and active galactic nuclei1. Because timescales around stellar-mass black holes are orders of magnitude smaller than those around more distant supermassive black holes, microquasars are ideal nearby ‘laboratories’ for studying the evolution of accretion disks and jet formation in black-hole systems2. Whereas studies of black holes have revealed a complex array of accretion activity, the mechanisms that trigger and suppress jet formation remain a mystery. Here we report the presence of a broad emission line in the faint, hard states and narrow absorption lines in the bright, soft states of the microquasar GRS 1915+105. (‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ denote the character of the emitted X-rays.) Because the hard states exhibit prominent radio jets3, we argue that the broad emission line arises when the jet illuminates the inner accretion disk. The jet is weak or absent during the soft states4, and we show that the absorption lines originate when the powerful radiation field around the black hole drives a hot wind off the accretion disk5,6,7. Our analysis shows that this wind carries enough mass away from the disk to halt the flow of matter into the radio jet.

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Figure 1: The X-ray luminosity and hard flux fraction for the 11 archival HETGS observations of GRS 1915+105.
Figure 2: The data/model ratio for the continuum fits to the HETGS observations of GRS 1915+105.
Figure 3: The equivalent width of the broad Fe xxv emission line in the hard states of GRS 1915+105 as a function of X-ray luminosity and radio flux.
Figure 4: The hard flux fraction and the equivalent width of the Fe xxvi absorption line seen in GRS 1915+105.


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We acknowledge support from the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (J.N.) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (J.C.L.). We thank G. Pooley for providing the radio data used in this paper and we acknowledge conversations with R. Remillard, who provided the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer spectra, and M. Begelman.

Author Contributions J.N. processed the data, performed spectral analysis, and wrote the paper. J.C.L. commented extensively on the manuscript. Both authors discussed the results at length.

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Correspondence to Joseph Neilsen.

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Neilsen, J., Lee, J. Accretion disk winds as the jet suppression mechanism in the microquasar GRS 1915+105. Nature 458, 481–484 (2009).

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