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    The globular cluster ultraluminous X-ray source, RZ 2109, is a complex and unique system that has been detected at X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavelengths. Based on almost 20 yr of Chandra and XMM–Newton observations, the X-ray luminosity exhibits order of magnitude variability, with the peak flux lasting on the order of a few hours. We perform robust time series analysis on the archival X-ray observations and find that this variability is periodic on a time-scale of 1.3 ± 0.04 d. The source also demonstrates broad [O iii] λ5007 emission, which has been observed since 2004, suggesting a white dwarf donor and therefore an ultra-compact X-ray binary. We present new spectra from 2020 and 2022, marking 18 yr of observed [O iii] emission from this source. Meanwhile, we find that the globular cluster counterpart is unusually bright in the NUV/UVW2 band. Finally, we discuss RZ 2109 in the context of the eccentric Kozai–Lidov mechanism and show that the observed 1.3 d periodicity can be used to place constraints on the tertiary configuration, ranging from 20 min (for a 0.1 M⊙ companion) to approximately 95 min (for a 1 M⊙ companion), if the eccentric Kozai–Lidov mechanism is at the origin of the periodic variability.

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  2. Abstract

    Dynamical perturbations from supermassive black hole (SMBH) binaries can increase the rates of tidal disruption events (TDEs). However, most previous work focuses on TDEs from the heavier black hole in the SMBH binary (SMBHB) system. In this work, we focus on the lighter black holes in SMBHB systems and show that they can experience a similarly dramatic increase in their TDE rate due to perturbations from a more massive companion. While the increase in TDEs around the more massive black hole is mostly due to chaotic orbital perturbations, we find that, around the smaller black hole, the eccentric Kozai–Lidov mechanism is dominant and capable of producing a comparably large number of TDEs. In this scenario, the mass derived from the light curve and spectra of TDEs caused by the lighter SMBH companion is expected to be significantly smaller than the SMBH mass estimated from galaxy scaling relations, which are dominated by the more massive companion. This apparent inconsistency can help find SMBHB candidates that are not currently accreting as active galactic nuclei and that are at separations too small for them to be resolved as two distinct sources. In the most extreme cases, these TDEs provide us with the exciting opportunity to study SMBHBs in galaxies where the primary SMBH is too massive to disrupt Sun-like stars.

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  3. Abstract

    We present the first estimate of the intrinsic binary fraction of young stars across the central ≈0.4 pc surrounding the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the Milky Way Galactic center (GC). This experiment searched for photometric variability in 102 spectroscopically confirmed young stars, using 119 nights of 10″ wide adaptive optics imaging observations taken at W. M. Keck Observatory over 16 yr in theK-[2.1μm] andH-[1.6μm] bands. We photometrically detected three binary stars, all of which are situated more than 1″ (0.04 pc) from the SMBH and one of which, S2-36, is newly reported here with spectroscopic confirmation. All are contact binaries or have photometric variability originating from stellar irradiation. To convert the observed binary fraction into an estimate of the underlying binary fraction, we determined the experimental sensitivity through detailed light-curve simulations, incorporating photometric effects of eclipses, irradiation, and tidal distortion in binaries. The simulations assumed a population of young binaries, with stellar ages (4 Myr) and masses matched to the most probable values measured for the GC young star population, and underlying binary system parameters (periods, mass ratios, and eccentricities) similar to those of local massive stars. As might be expected, our experimental sensitivity decreases for eclipses narrower in phase. The detections and simulations imply that the young, massive stars in the GC have a stellar binary fraction ≥71% (68% confidence), or ≥42% (95% confidence). This inferred GC young star binary fraction is consistent with that typically seen in young stellar populations in the solar neighborhood. Furthermore, our measured binary fraction is significantly higher than that recently reported by Chu et al. based on radial velocity measurements for stars ≲1″ of the SMBH. Constrained with these two studies, the probability that the same underlying young star binary fraction extends across the entire region is <1.4%. This tension provides support for a radial dependence of the binary star fraction, and therefore, for the dynamical predictions of binary merger and evaporation events close to the SMBH.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  5. Abstract The gravitational three-body problem is a fundamental problem in physics and has significant applications to astronomy. Three-body configurations are often considered stable as long the system is hierarchical; that is, the two orbital distances are well-separated. However, instability, which is often associated with significant energy exchange between orbits, takes time to develop. Assuming two massive objects in a circular orbit and a test particle in an eccentric orbit, we develop an analytical formula estimating the time it takes for the test particle’s orbital energy to change by an order of itself. We show its consistency with results from N -body simulations. For eccentric orbits in particular, the instability is primarily driven not by close encounters of the test particle with one of the other bodies, but by the fundamental susceptibility of eccentric orbits to exchange energy at their periapsis. Motivated by recent suggestions that the galactic center may host an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) as a companion to the massive black hole Sgr A*, we use our timescale to explore the parameter space that could harbor an IMBH for the lifetime of the S-cluster of stars surrounding Sgr A*. Furthermore, we show that the orbit of an S-star can be stable for long timescales in the presence of other orbital crossing stars, thus suggesting that the S-cluster may be stable for the lifetimes of its member stars. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 20, 2024
  6. Abstract

    We use 23 yr of astrometric and radial velocity data on the orbit of the star S0-2 to constrain a hypothetical intermediate-mass black hole orbiting the massive black hole Sgr A* at the Galactic center. The data place upper limits on variations of the orientation of the stellar orbit at levels between 0.°02 and 0.°07 per year. We use a combination of analytic estimates and full numerical integrations of the orbit of S0-2 in the presence of a black hole binary. For a companion intermediate-mass black hole outside the orbit of S0-2 (1020 au), we find that a companion black hole with massmcbetween 103and 105Mis excluded, with a boundary behaving asacmc1/3. For a companion withac< 1020 au, a black hole with mass between 103and 105Mis excluded, withacmc1/2. These bounds arise from quadrupolar perturbations of the orbit of S0-2. Significantly stronger bounds on an inner companion arise from the fact that the location of S0-2 is measured relative to the bright emission of Sgr A* and that separation is perturbed by the “wobble” of Sgr A* about the center of mass between it and the companion. The result is a set of bounds as small as 400Mat 200 au; the numerical simulations suggest a bound from these effects varying asacmc1. We compare and contrast our results with those from a recent analysis by the GRAVITY collaboration.

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  7. Abstract

    Like most galaxies, the Milky Way harbors a supermassive black hole (SMBH) at its center, surrounded by a nuclear star cluster. In this dense star cluster, direct collisions can occur between stars before they evolve off the main sequence. Using a statistical approach, we characterize the outcomes of these stellar collisions within the inner parsec of the Galactic center (GC). Close to the SMBH, where the velocity dispersion is larger than the escape speed from a Sun-like star, collisions lead to mass loss. We find that the stellar population within 0.01 pc is halved within about a billion years because of destructive collisions. Additionally, we predict a diffuse population of peculiar low-mass stars in the GC. These stars have been divested of their outer layers in the inner 0.01 pc before migrating to larger distances from the SMBH. Between 0.01 and 0.1 pc from the SMBH, collisions can result in mergers. Our results suggest that repeated collisions between lower-mass stars can produce massive (≳10M) stars, and that there may be ∼100 of them residing in this region. We provide predictions on the number of so-called G objects, dust- and gas-enshrouded stellar objects, that may result from main-sequence stellar collisions. Lastly, we comment on uncertainties in our model and possible connections between stellar collisions and the missing red giants in the GC.

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  8. Abstract

    The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is capable of probing extremely early eras of our Universe, when the supersonic relative motions between dark matter and baryonic overdensities modulate structure formation (z≳ 10). We study low-mass galaxy formation, including this “stream velocity,” using high-resolutionAREPOhydrodynamics simulations and present theoretical predictions of the UV luminosity function (UVLF) and galaxy stellar mass function down to extremely faint and low-mass galaxies (MUV≳ −15, 104MM*≤ 108M). We show that, although the stream velocity suppresses early star formation overall, it induces a short period of rapid star formation in some larger dwarfs, leading to an enhancement in the faint end of the UVLF atz= 12. We demonstrate that JWST observations are close to this enhanced regime and propose that the UVLF may constitute an important probe of the stream velocity at high redshift for JWST and future observatories.

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    The dynamical interaction of minor bodies (such as comets or asteroids) with planets plays an essential role in the planetary system’s architecture and evolution. As a result of these interactions, structures such as the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud can be created. In particular, the collision of minor bodies with planets can drastically change the planet’s internal and orbital evolution. We present an analytical formulation to determine the collision time-scale for a minor body to impact a planet for arbitrary geometry. By comparing with a suite of detailed N-body simulations and an analytical method for collision time-scales in the Solar system, we confirmed the accuracy of our analytical formulation. As a proof of concept, we focused on the collision time-scales of minor bodies similar to the Jupiter-family comets and the long-period comets with a Jupiter-like planet. We show that our analytical method yields in good agreement with the numerical simulations. The formalism presented here thus provides a succinct and accurate alternative to numerical calculations.

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  10. Galactic nuclei harbouring a central supermassive black hole (SMBH), possibly surrounded by a dense nuclear cluster (NC), represent extreme environments that house a complex interplay of many physical processes that uniquely affect stellar formation, evolution, and dynamics. The discovery of gravitational waves (GWs) emitted by merging black holes (BHs) and neutron stars (NSs), funnelled a huge amount of work focused on understanding how compact object binaries (COBs) can pair up and merge together. Here, we review from a theoretical standpoint how different mechanisms concur with the formation, evolution, and merger of COBs around quiescent SMBHs and active galactic nuclei (AGNs), summarising the main predictions for current and future (GW) detections and outlining the possible features that can clearly mark a galactic nuclei origin. 
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