The Megasecond Chandra X-Ray Visionary Project Observation of NGC 3115: Witnessing the Flow of Hot Gas within the Bondi Radius
Observational confirmation of hot accretion model predictions has been hindered by the challenge to resolve spatially the Bondi radii of black holes with X-ray telescopes. Here, we use the Megasecond Chandra X-ray Visionary Project observation of the NGC 3115 supermassive black hole to place the first direct observational constraints on the spatially and spectroscopically resolved structures of the X-ray emitting gas inside the Bondi radius of a black hole. We measured temperature and density profiles of the hot gas from a fraction out to tens of the Bondi radius (RB = 24-48 = 112-224 pc). The projected temperature jumps significantly from ~0.3 keV beyond 5'' to ~0.7 keV within ~4''-5'', but then abruptly drops back to ~0.3 keV within ~3''. This is contrary to the expectation that the temperature should rise toward the center for a radiatively inefficient accretion flow. A hotter thermal component of ~1 keV inside 3'' (~150 pc) is revealed using a two-component thermal model, with the cooler ~0.3 keV thermal component dominating the spectra. We argue that the softer emission comes from diffuse gas physically located within ~150 pc of the black hole. The density profile is broadly consistent with ρ∝r –1 within the Bondi radius for either the single temperature or the two-temperature model. The X-ray data alone with physical reasoning argue against the absence of a black hole, supporting that we are witnessing the onset of the gravitational influence of the supermassive black hole.