Bondi accretion

Bondi accretion

Bondi accretion is spherical accretion onto an object. It is generally used in the context of neutron star and black hole accretion for a compact object traveling through the interstellar medium. It is named after Hermann Bondi.

To achieve an approximate form of the Bondi accretion rate, accretion is assumed to occur at a rate

\dot{M} = \pi R^2 \rho v

where \rho is the ambient density, v is either the velocity of the object or the sound speed c_s in the surrounding medium if the object's velocity is lower than the sound speed, and the radius R provides an effective area. The effective radius is acquired by equating the object's escape velocity and the relevant speed, i.e.

\sqrt{\frac{2 G M}{R}} = c_s


R=\frac{2 G M}{c_s^2} .

The accretion rate therefore becomes

\dot{M} = \frac{4 \pi \rho G^2 M^2 }{c_s^3} .

This derivation is only approximate, using scaling relations rather than rigorous definitions. A more complete solution can be found in Bondi's original work and two other papers.


  • Bondi (1952) MNRAS 112, 195, link
  • Mestel (1954) MNRAS 114, 437
  • Hoyle and Lyttleton (1941) MNRAS 101, 227