accretion disk

Science Dictionary
accretion disk  
A spinning disk of gas and dust surrounding a celestial object with an intense gravitational field, such as a star or a black hole. In binary star systems, the gravitational attraction of the denser star can pull matter from the other star into an accretion disk in its own orbit. The material in the accretion disk eventually spirals into the attracting star and adds to its mass. The gas in accretion disks that surround black holes becomes condensed and heated as it is sucked into the hole, emitting x-rays and other radiation that provide evidence for the presence of the black hole.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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