Ramesh Narayan

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (315)1535.73 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We study energy flows in geometrically thick accretion discs, both optically thick and thin, using general relativistic, three-dimensional simulations of black hole accretion flows. We find that for non-rotating black holes the efficiency of the total feedback from thick accretion discs is 3 per cent – roughly half of the thin disc efficiency. This amount of energy is ultimately distributed between outflow and radiation, the latter scaling weakly with the accretion rate for super-critical accretion rates, and returned to the interstellar medium. Accretion on to rotating black holes is more efficient because of the additional extraction of rotational energy. However, the jet component is collimated and likely to interact only weakly with the environment, whereas the outflow and radiation components cover a wide solid angle.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2016 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: In general relativity, static gaseous atmospheres may be in hydrostatic balance in the absence of a supporting stellar surface, provided that the luminosity is close to the Eddington value. We construct analytic models of optically thin, spherically symmetric shells supported by the radiation pressure of a luminous central body in the Schwarzschild metric. Opacity is assumed to be dominated by Thomson scattering. The inner parts of the atmospheres, where the luminosity locally has supercritical values, are characterized by a density and pressure inversion. The atmospheres are convectively and Rayleigh–Taylor stable, and there is no outflow of gas.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Near a black hole, differential rotation of a magnetized accretion disk is thought to produce an instability that amplifies weak magnetic fields, driving accretion and outflow. These magnetic fields would naturally give rise to the observed synchrotron emission in galaxy cores and to the formation of relativistic jets, but no observations to date have been able to resolve the expected horizon-scale magnetic-field structure. We report interferometric observations at 1.3-millimeter wavelength that spatially resolve the linearly polarized emission from the Galactic Center supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. We have found evidence for partially ordered fields near the event horizon, on scales of ~6 Schwarzschild radii, and we have detected and localized the intra-hour variability associated with these fields.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2015 · Science
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    ABSTRACT: We construct models of static, spherically symmetric shells supported by the radiation flux of a luminous neutron star in the Schwarzschild metric. The atmospheres are disconnected from the star and levitate above its surface. Gas pressure and density inversion appear in the inner region of these atmospheres, which is a purely relativistic phenomenon. We account for the scattering opacity dependence on temperature and utilize the relativistic M1 closure scheme for the radiation tensor, hence allowing for a fully GR-consistent treatment of the photon flux and radiation tensor anisotropy. In this way we are able to address atmospheres of both large and moderate/low optical depths with the same set of equations. We discuss properties of the levitating atmospheres and find that they may indeed be optically thick, with the distance between star surface and the photosphere expanding as luminosity increases. These results may be relevant for the photosphereric radius expansion X-ray bursts.
    Preview · Article · Nov 2015
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    ABSTRACT: At super-Eddington rates accretion flows onto black holes have been described as slim (aspect ratio H/R << 1) or thick (H/R > 1) discs, also known as tori or (Polish) doughnuts. The relation between the two descriptions has never been established but it was commonly believed that at sufficiently high accretion rates slim discs inflate becoming thick. We wish to establish under what conditions slim accretion flows become thick. We use analytical equations, numerical 1+1 schemes and numerical radiative MHD codes to describe and compare various accretion flow models at very high accretion rates. We find that the dominant effect of advection at high accretion rates precludes slim discs becoming thick. At super-Eddington rates accretion flows around black holes can always be considered to be slim rather than thick.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Astronomy and Astrophysics
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    ABSTRACT: We study energy flows in geometrically thick accretion discs, both optically thick and thin, using general relativistic, three-dimensional simulations of black hole accretion flows. We find that for non-rotating black holes the efficiency of the total feedback from thick accretion discs is $3\%$ - roughly half of the thin disc efficiency. This amount of energy is ultimately distributed between outflow and radiation, the latter scaling weakly with the accretion rate for super-critical accretion rates, and returned to the interstellar medium. Accretion on to rotating black holes is more efficient because of the additional extraction of rotational energy. However, the jet component is collimated and likely to interact only weakly with the environment, whereas the outflow and radiation components cover a wide solid angle.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015
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    ABSTRACT: This paper describes the Polarization Spectroscopic Telescope Array (PolSTAR), a mission proposed to NASA's 2014 Small Explorer (SMEX) announcement of opportunity. PolSTAR measures the linear polarization of 3-50 keV (requirement; goal: 2.5-70 keV) X-rays probing the behavior of matter, radiation and the very fabric of spacetime under the extreme conditions close to the event horizons of black holes, as well as in and around magnetars and neutron stars. The PolSTAR design is based on the technology developed for the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission launched in June 2012. In particular, it uses the same X-ray optics, extendable telescope boom, optical bench, and CdZnTe detectors as NuSTAR. The mission has the sensitivity to measure ~1% linear polarization fractions for X-ray sources with fluxes down to ~5 mCrab. This paper describes the PolSTAR design as well as the science drivers and the potential science return.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We describe Hybrid Evaluator for Radiative Objects Including Comptonization (heroic), an upgraded version of the relativistic radiative post-processor code hero described in a previous paper, but which now Includes Comptonization. heroic models Comptonization via the Kompaneets equation, using a quadratic approximation for the source function in a short characteristics radiation solver. It employs a simple form of accelerated lambda iteration to handle regions of high scattering opacity. In addition to solving for the radiation field, heroic also solves for the gas temperature by applying the condition of radiative equilibrium. We present benchmarks and tests of the Comptonization module in heroic with simple 1D and 3D scattering problems. We also test the ability of the code to handle various relativistic effects using model atmospheres and accretion flows in a black hole space–time. We present two applications of heroic to general relativistic magnetohydrodynamics simulations of accretion discs. One application is to a thin accretion disc around a black hole. We find that the gas below the photosphere in the multidimensional heroic solution is nearly isothermal, quite different from previous solutions based on 1D plane parallel atmospheres. The second application is to a geometrically thick radiation-dominated accretion disc accreting at 11 times the Eddington rate. Here, the multidimensional heroic solution shows that, for observers who are on axis and look down the polar funnel, the isotropic equivalent luminosity could be more than 10 times the Eddington limit, even though the spectrum might still look thermal and show no signs of relativistic beaming.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    Aleksander Sadowski · Ramesh Narayan
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    ABSTRACT: We present a set of four three-dimensional, general relativistic, radiation magnetohydrodynamical simulations of black hole accretion at supercritical mass accretion rates, $\dot{M} > \dot{M}_{\rm Edd}$. We use these simulations to study how disc properties are modified when we vary the black hole mass, the black hole spin, or the mass accretion rate. In the case of a non-rotating black hole, we find that the total efficiency is of the order of $3\,\mathrm{per\ cent}\ \dot{M} c^2$, approximately a factor of 2 less than the efficiency of a standard thin accretion disc. The radiation flux in the funnel along the axis is highly super-Eddington, but only a small fraction of the energy released by accretion escapes in this region. The bulk of the $3\,\mathrm{per\ cent}\ \dot{M} c^2$ of energy emerges farther out in the disc, either in the form of photospheric emission or as a wind. In the case of a black hole with a spin parameter of 0.7, we find a larger efficiency of about $8\,\mathrm{per\ cent}\ \dot{M} c^2$. By comparing the relative importance of advective and diffusive radiation transport, we show that photon trapping is effective near the equatorial plane. However, near the disc surface, vertical transport of radiation by diffusion dominates. We compare the properties of our fiducial three-dimensional run with those of an equivalent two-dimensional axisymmetric model with a mean-field dynamo. The latter simulation runs nearly 100 times faster than the three-dimensional simulation, and gives very similar results for time-averaged properties of the accretion flow, but does not reproduce the time-variability.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    Aleksander Sadowski · Ramesh Narayan
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    ABSTRACT: We introduce a new method for treating Comptonization in computational fluid dynamics. By construction, this method conserves the number of photons. Whereas the traditional ‘blackbody Comptonization’ approach assumes that the radiation is locally a perfect blackbody and therefore uses a single parameter, the radiation temperature, to describe the radiation, the new ‘photon-conserving Comptonization’ approach treats the photon gas as a Bose–Einstein fluid and keeps track of both the radiation temperature and the photon number density. We have implemented photon-conserving Comptonization in the general relativistic radiation magnetohydrodynamical code koral and we describe its impact on simulations of mildly supercritical black hole accretion discs. We find that blackbody Comptonization underestimates the gas and radiation temperature by up to a factor of 2 compared to photon-conserving Comptonization. This discrepancy could be serious when computing spectra. The photon-conserving simulation indicates that the spectral colour correction factor of the escaping radiation in the funnel region of the disc could be as large as 5.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: In general relativity static gaseous atmospheres may be in hydrostatic balance in the absence of a supporting stellar surface, provided that the luminosity is close to the Eddington value. We construct analytic models of optically thin, spherically symmetric shells supported by the radiation pressure of a luminous central body in the Schwarzschild metric.
    Preview · Article · May 2015
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    ABSTRACT: hero (Hybrid Evaluator for Radiative Objects) is a 3D general relativistic radiative transfer code which has been tailored to the problem of analysing radiation from simulations of relativistic accretion discs around black holes. hero is designed to be used as a post-processor. Given some fixed fluid structure for the disc (i.e. density and velocity as a function of position from a hydrodynamic or magnetohydrodynamic simulation), the code obtains a self-consistent solution for the radiation field and for the gas temperatures using the condition of radiative equilibrium. The novel aspect of hero is that it combines two techniques: (1) a short-characteristics (SC) solver that quickly converges to a self-consistent disc temperature and radiation field, with (2) a long-characteristics (LC) solver that provides a more accurate solution for the radiation near the photosphere and in the optically thin regions. By combining these two techniques, we gain both the computational speed of SC and the high accuracy of LC. We present tests of hero on a range of 1D, 2D, and 3D problems in flat space and show that the results agree well with both analytical and benchmark solutions. We also test the ability of the code to handle relativistic problems in curved space. Finally, we discuss the important topic of ray defects, a major limitation of the SC method, and describe our strategy for minimizing the induced error.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We explore the variability properties of long, high cadence GRMHD simulations across the electromagnetic spectrum using an efficient, GPU-based radiative transfer algorithm. We focus on both disk- and jet-dominated simulations with parameters that successfully reproduce the time-averaged spectral properties of Sgr A* and the size of its image at 1.3mm. We find that the disk-dominated models produce short timescale variability with amplitudes and power spectra that closely resemble those inferred observationally. In contrast, jet-dominated models generate only slow variability, at lower flux levels. Neither set of models show any X-ray flares, which most likely indicate that additional physics, such as particle acceleration mechanisms, need to be incorporated into the GRMHD simulations to account for them. The disk-dominated models show strong, short-lived mm/IR flares, with short (<~ 1hr) time lags between the mm and IR wavelengths, that arise from strong-field gravitational lensing of magnetic flux tubes near the horizon. Such events provide a natural explanation for the observed IR flares with no X-ray counterparts.
    Preview · Article · May 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: The 6 billion solar mass supermassive black hole at the center of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 powers a relativistic jet. Observations at millimeter wavelengths with the Event Horizon Telescope have localized the emission from the base of this jet to angular scales comparable to the putative black hole horizon. The jet might be powered directly by an accretion disk or by electromagnetic extraction of the rotational energy of the black hole. However, even the latter mechanism requires a confining thick accretion disk to maintain the required magnetic flux near the black hole. Therefore, regardless of the jet mechanism, the observed jet power in M87 implies a certain minimum mass accretion rate. If the central compact object in M87 were not a black hole but had a surface, this accretion would result in considerable thermal near-infrared and optical emission from the surface. Current flux limits on the nucleus of M87 strongly constrain any such surface emission. This rules out the presence of a surface and thereby provides indirect evidence for an event horizon.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    Aleksander Sadowski · Ramesh Narayan
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a set of simulations of supercritical accretion on to a non-rotating supermassive black hole (BH). The accretion flow takes the form of a geometrically thick disc with twin low-density funnels around the rotation axis. For accretion rates ${\gtrsim } 10\,\dot{M}_{\rm Edd}$, there is sufficient gas in the funnel to make this region optically thick. Radiation from the disc first flows into the funnel, after which it accelerates the optically thick funnel gas along the axis. The resulting jet is baryon loaded and has a terminal density-weighted velocity ≈0.3c. Much of the radiative luminosity is converted into kinetic energy by the time the escaping gas becomes optically thin. These jets are not powered by BHrotation or magnetic driving, but purely by radiation. Their characteristic beaming angle is ∼0.2 rad. For an observer viewing down the axis, the isotropic equivalent luminosity of total energy is as much as 1048 erg s− 1 for a 107 M⊙ BH accreting at 103 Eddington. Therefore, energetically, the simulated jets are consistent with observations of the most powerful tidal disruption events, e.g. Swift J1644. The jet velocity is, however, too low to match the Lorentz factor γ > 2 inferred in J1644. There is no such conflict in the case of other tidal disruption events. Since favourably oriented observers see isotropic equivalent luminosities that are highly super-Eddington, the simulated models can explain observations of ultraluminous X-ray sources, at least in terms of luminosity and energetics, without requiring intermediate-mass BHs.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Previous MHD simulations have shown that wind must exist in black hole hot accretion flows. In this paper, we continue our study by investigating the detailed properties of wind, such as mass flux and poloidal speed, and the mechanism of wind production. For this aim, we make use of a three dimensional GRMHD simulation of hot accretion flows around a Schwarzschild black hole. The simulation is designed so that the magnetic flux is not accumulated significantly around the black hole. To distinguish real wind from turbulent outflows, we track the trajectories of the virtual Largrangian particles from simulation data. We find two types of real outflows, i.e., a quasi-relativistic jet close to the axis and a sub-relativistic wind subtending a much larger solid angle. Most of the wind originates from the surface layer of the accretion flow. The poloidal wind speed almost remains constant once they are produced, but the flux-weighted wind speed roughly follows $v_{\rm p, wind}(r)\approx 0.25 v_k(r)$. The mass flux of jet is much lower but the speed is much higher, $v_{\rm p,jet}\sim (0.3-0.4) c$. Consequently, both the energy and momentum fluxes of the wind are much larger than those of the jet. We find that the wind is produced and accelerated primarily by the combination of centrifugal force and magnetic pressure gradient, while the jet is mainly accelerated by magnetic pressure gradient. Finally, we find that the wind production efficiency $\epsilon_{\rm wind}\equiv\dot{E}_{\rm wind}/\dot{M}_{\rm BH}c^2\sim 1/1000$, in good agreement with the value required from large-scale galaxy simulations with AGN feedback.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2015 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    Lorenzo Sironi · Ramesh Narayan
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    ABSTRACT: In systems accreting well below the Eddington rate, the plasma in the innermost regions of the disk is collisionless and two-temperature, with the ions hotter than the electrons. Yet, whether a collisionless faster-than-Coulomb energy transfer mechanism exists in two-temperature accretion flows is still an open question. We study the physics of electron heating during the growth of ion velocity-space instabilities, by means of multi-dimensional particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations. A large-scale compression - embedded in a novel form of the PIC equations - continuously amplifies the field. This constantly drives a pressure anisotropy P_perp > P_parallel, due to the adiabatic invariance of the particle magnetic moments. We find that, for ion plasma beta values beta_i ~ 5-30 appropriate for the midplane of low-luminosity accretion flows, mirror modes dominate if the electron-to-proton temperature ratio is > 0.2, whereas if it is < 0.2 the ion cyclotron instability triggers the growth of strong Alfven-like waves, that pitch-angle scatter the ions to maintain marginal stability. We develop an analytical model of electron heating during the growth of the ion cyclotron instability, which we validate with PIC simulations. We find that for cold electrons (beta_e < m_e/m_i), the electron energy gain is controlled by the magnitude of the E-cross-B velocity induced by the ion cyclotron waves. This term is independent of the initial electron temperature, so it provides a solid energy floor even for electrons starting with extremely low temperatures. On the other hand, the electron energy gain for beta_e > m_e/m_i - governed by the conservation of the magnetic moment in the growing fields of the instability - is proportional to the initial electron temperature. Our results have implications for two-temperature accretion flows as well as the solar wind and intracluster plasmas. [abridged]
    Preview · Article · Nov 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Recent advances in general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations have expanded and improved our understanding of the dynamics of black-hole accretion disks. However, current simulations do not capture the thermodynamics of electrons in the low density accreting plasma. This poses a significant challenge in predicting accretion flow images and spectra from first principles. Because of this, simplified emission models have often been used, with widely different configurations (e.g., disk- versus jet-dominated emission), and were able to account for the observed spectral properties of accreting black-holes. Exploring the large parameter space introduced by such models, however, requires significant computational power that exceeds conventional computational facilities. In this paper, we use GRay, a fast GPU-based ray-tracing algorithm, on the GPU cluster El Gato, to compute images and spectra for a set of six general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic simulations with different magnetic field configurations and black-hole spins. We also employ two different parametric models for the plasma thermodynamics in each of the simulations. We show that, if only the spectral properties of Sgr A* are used, all twelve models tested here can fit the spectra equally well. However, when combined with the measurement of the image size of the emission using the Event Horizon Telescope, current observations rule out all models with strong funnel emission, because the funnels are typically very extended. Our study shows that images of accretion flows with horizon-scale resolution offer a powerful tool in understanding accretion flows around black-holes and their thermodynamic properties.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: The transient Swift J1644+57 is believed to have been produced by an unlucky star wandering too close to a supermassive black hole (BH) leading to a tidal disruption event. This unusual flare displayed highly super-Eddington X-ray emission which likely originated in a relativistic, collimated jet. This presents challenges to modern accretion and jet theory as upper limits of prior BH activity, which we obtain from the radio afterglow of this event, imply that both the pre-disruption BH and stellar magnetic fluxes fall many orders of magnitude short of what is required to power the observed X-ray luminosity. We argue that a pre-existing, "fossil" accretion disc can contain a sufficient reservoir of magnetic flux and that the stellar debris stream is capable of dragging this flux into the BH. To demonstrate this, we perform local, 3D magnetohydrodynamic simulations of the disc--stream interaction and demonstrate that the interface between the two is unstable to mixing. This mixing entrains a sufficient amount of fossil disc magnetic flux into the infalling stellar debris to power the jet. We argue that the interaction with the fossil disc can have a pronounced effect on the structure and dynamics of mass fallback and likely the resulting transient. Finally, we describe possible ramifications of these interactions on unresolved problems in tidal disruption dynamics, in particular, the efficiency of debris circularization, and effects of the disruption on the preexisting black hole system. Animations online: http://goo.gl/T84tLs
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    Xinyi Guo · Lorenzo Sironi · Ramesh Narayan
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    ABSTRACT: Electron acceleration to non-thermal energies is known to occur in low Mach number (M<5) shocks in galaxy clusters and solar flares, but the electron acceleration mechanism remains poorly understood. Using two-dimensional (2D) particle-in-cell (PIC) plasma simulations, we showed in Paper I that electrons are efficiently accelerated in low Mach number (M=3) quasi-perpendicular shocks via a Fermi-like process. The electrons bounce between the upstream region and the shock front, with each reflection at the shock resulting in energy gain via shock drift acceleration. The upstream scattering is provided by oblique magnetic waves, that are self-generated by the electrons escaping ahead of the shock. In the present work, we employ additional 2D PIC simulations to address the nature of the upstream oblique waves. We find that the waves are generated by the shock-reflected electrons via the firehose instability, which is driven by an anisotropy in the electron velocity distribution. We systematically explore how the efficiency of wave generation and of electron acceleration depend on the magnetic field obliquity, the flow magnetization (or equivalently, the plasma beta), and the upstream electron temperature. We find that the mechanism works for shocks with high plasma beta (>20) at nearly all magnetic field obliquities, and for electron temperatures in the range relevant for galaxy clusters. Our findings offer a natural solution to the conflict between the bright radio synchrotron emission observed from the outskirts of galaxy clusters and the low electron acceleration efficiency usually expected in low Mach number shocks.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2014 · The Astrophysical Journal

Publication Stats

19k Citations
1,535.73 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1993-2015
    • Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
      • • Institute for Theory and Computation
      • • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1996-2014
    • Harvard University
      • • Department of Astronomy
      • • Department of Physics
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1989-2014
    • The University of Arizona
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
    • National Radio Astronomy Observatory
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • 2013
    • San Diego State University
      • Department of Astronomy
      San Diego, California, United States
  • 2002
    • Princeton University
      • Department of Astrophysical Sciences
      Princeton, New Jersey, United States
  • 2001
    • University of Rochester
      • Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE)
      Rochester, New York, United States
  • 2000
    • University of Toronto
      • Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics
      Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Chalmers University of Technology
      Goeteborg, Västra Götaland, Sweden
  • 1999
    • Kurchatov Institute
      Moskva, Moscow, Russia
  • 1988-1989
    • Institute for Advanced Study
      Princeton Junction, New Jersey, United States
  • 1984-1987
    • California Institute of Technology
      • Department of Astronomy
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 1981-1985
    • Raman Research Institute
      Bengalūru, Karnātaka, India