Jets, black holes and disks in blazars
INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera
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Published online: 9 December 2013
The Fermi and Swift satellites, together with ground based Cherenkov telescopes, has greatly improved our knowledge of blazars, namely Flat Spectrum Radio Quasars and BL Lac objects, since all but the most powerful emit most of their electro–magnetic output at γ–ray energies, while the very powerful blazars emit mostly in the hard X–ray region of the spectrum. Often they show coordinated variability at different frequencies, suggesting that in these cases the same population of electrons is at work, in a single zone of the jet. The location of this region along the jet is a matter of debate. The jet power correlates with the mass accretion rate, with jets existing at all values of disk luminosities, measured in Eddington units, sampled so far. The most powerful blazars show clear evidence of the emission from their disks, and this has revived methods of finding the black hole mass and accretion rate by modelling a disk spectrum to the data. Being so luminous, blazars can be detected also at very high redshift, and therefore are a useful tool to explore the far universe. One interesting line of research concerns how heavy are their black holes at high redshifts. If we associate the presence of a relativistic jets with a fastly spinning black hole, then we naively expect that the accretion efficiency is larger than for non–spinning holes. As a consequence, the black hole mass in jetted systems should grow at a slower rate. In turn, this would imply that, at high redshifts, the heaviest black holes should be in radio–quiet quasars. We instead have evidences of the opposite, challenging our simple ideas of how a black hole grows.
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