A self-gravitating accretion disk in Sgr A* a few million years ago: Is Sgr A* a failed quasar?

S. Nayakshin, J. Cuadra

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119 Scopus citations


Sgr A* is extra-ordinarily dim in all wavelengths requiring a very low accretion rate at the present time. However, at a radial distance of a fraction of a parsec from Sgr A*, two rings populated by young massive stars suggest a recent burst of star formation in a rather hostile environment. Here we explore two ways of creating such young stellar rings with a gaseous accretion disk: by self-gravity in a massive disk, and by capturing "old" low mass stars and growing them via gas accretion in a disk. The minimum disk mass is above 1044 M for the first mechanism and is few tens of times larger for the second one. The observed relatively small velocity dispersion of the stars rules out disks more massive than around 105 M heavier stellar or gas disks would warp each other too strongly by orbital precession in an axisymmetric potential. The capture of "old" stars by a disk is thus unlikely as the origin of the young stellar disks. The absence of a massive nuclear gas disk in Sgr A* now implies that the disk was either accreted by the SMBH, which would then imply almost a quasar-like luminosity for Sgr A*, or was consumed in the star formation episode. The latter possibility appears to be more likely on theoretical grounds. We also consider whether accretion disk plane changes, expected to occur due to fluctuations in the angular momentum of gas infalling into the central parsec of a galaxy, would dislodge the embedded stars from the disk midplane. We find that the stars leave the disk midplane only if the disk orientation changes on time scales much shorter than the disk viscous time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Black hole physics
  • Galaxy: Center
  • Stars: Formation


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