The spectral states of black hole X-ray binary sources

Xlngming Chen*, Ronald E. Taam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A framework for the interpretation of the spectral states of black hole X-ray transients based on the diversity of accretion disk models is introduced. Depending on the mass accretion rate, it is proposed that the accretion disk is described by one or a combination of the following structures: optically thick disk, advection-dominated disk, corona-disk, and non-steady state disk. In particular, it is suggested that the very high, high, low, and off states are characterized by mass accretion rates of decreasing magnitude. The very high state corresponds to mass accretion rates near the Eddington limit in which an optically thin, nonsteady inner region is surrounded by an optically thick structure. In the high state, the inner region is optically thin and advection dominated or optically thick. The low hard state is interpreted in terms of a disk-corona system, and the off state in terms of an optically thin disk dominated by advective energy transport into the black hole. The possible observational consequences of such a paradigm are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-409
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART I
StatePublished - 1996


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Binaries: close
  • X-rays: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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