Texas Tech University

New paper shines light on little-understood process in astronomy


October 13, 2015

Phys.org - A paper coauthored by Tom Maccarone, a Texas Tech University associate professor in the Department of Physics, studies one of the most important but least understood processes in astronomy: accretion, or the growth in mass of an object by gravitationally collecting material from its surroundings.

"In our paper, we discovered a relationship that spans the range of different types of accreting objects, from proto-stars, much like our sun was at its time of birth, to white dwarfs to supermassive black holes with a billion times the mass of the sun located in galaxies millions of light-years away," Maccarone said. "In these systems there is some characteristic timescale for the variability – typically the large brightenings and fadings occur with that timescale. What we have found is that two important properties of the object are its physical size scale and the rate at which it is accreting matter."

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