Unified Treatment of Tidal Disruption by Schwarzschild Black Holes




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Stars on orbits with pericenters sufficiently close to the supermassive black hole at the center of their host galaxy can be ripped apart by tidal stresses. Some of the resulting stellar debris becomes more tightly bound to the hole and can potentially produce an observable flare called a t (TDE). We provide a self-consistent, unified treatment of TDEs by nonspinning (Schwarzschild) black holes, investigating several effects of general relativity including changes to the boundary in phase space that defines the loss-cone orbits on which stars are tidally disrupted or captured. TDE rates decrease rapidly at large black hole masses due to direct stellar capture, but this effect is slightly countered by the widening of the loss cone due to the stronger tidal fields in general relativity. We provide a new mapping procedure that translates between Newtonian gravity and general relativity, allowing us to better compare predictions in both gravitational theories. Partial tidal disruptions in relativity will strip more material from the star and produce more tightly bound debris than in Newtonian gravity for a stellar orbit with the same angular momentum. However, for deep encounters leading to full disruption in both theories, the stronger tidal forces in relativity imply that the star is disrupted further from the black hole and that the debris is therefore less tightly bound, leading to a smaller peak fallback accretion rate. We also examine the capture of tidal debris by the horizon and the relativistic pericenter precession of tidal debris, finding that black holes of 10⁶ solar masses and above generate tidal debris precessing by 10° or more per orbit.



Schwarzschild black holes, General relativity (Physics), Phase space (Statistical physics), Gravity


Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant No. FG- 2015-65299 and NSF Grant No. PHY-1607031.


©2017 American Physical Society.