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  1. Abstract Periodic nuclear transients have been detected with increasing frequency, with one such system—ASASSN-14ko—exhibiting highly regular outbursts on a timescale of 114 ± 1 days. It has been postulated that the outbursts from this source are generated by the repeated partial disruption of a star, but how the star was placed onto such a tightly bound orbit about the supermassive black hole remains unclear. Here we use analytic arguments and three-body integrations to demonstrate that the Hills mechanism, where a binary system is destroyed by the tides of the black hole, can lead to the capture of a star onmore »a ∼114 days orbit and with a pericenter distance that is comparable to the tidal radius of one of the stars within the binary. Thus, Hills capture can produce stars on tightly bound orbits that undergo repeated partial disruption, leading to a viable mechanism for generating not only the outbursts detected from ASASSN-14ko but periodic nuclear transients in general. We also show that the rate of change of the period of the captured star due to gravitational-wave emission is likely too small to produce the observed value for ASASSN-14ko, indicating that in this system there must be additional effects that contribute to the decay of the orbit. In general, however, gravitational-wave emission can be important for limiting the lifetimes of these systems and could produce observable period decay rates in future events.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. Abstract Tidal disruption events with tidal radius r t and pericenter distance r p are characterized by the quantity β = r t / r p , and “deep encounters” have β ≫ 1. It has been assumed that there is a critical β ≡ β c ∼ 1 that differentiates between partial and full disruption: for β < β c a fraction of the star survives the tidal interaction with the black hole, while for β > β c the star is completely destroyed, and hence all deep encounters should be full. Here we show that this assumption ismore »incorrect by providing an example of a β = 16 encounter between a γ = 5/3, solar-like polytrope and a 10 6 M ⊙ black hole—for which previous investigations have found β c ≃ 0.9—that results in the reformation of a stellar core post-disruption that comprises approximately 25% of the original stellar mass. We propose that the core reforms under self-gravity, which remains important because of the compression of the gas both near pericenter, where the compression occurs out of the orbital plane, and substantially after pericenter, where compression is within the plane. We find that the core forms on a bound orbit about the black hole, and we discuss the corresponding implications of our findings in the context of recently observed, repeating nuclear transients.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We develop a Newtonian model of a deep tidal disruption event (TDE), for which the pericenter distance of the star, r p , is well within the tidal radius of the black hole, r t , i.e., when β ≡ r t / r p ≫ 1. We find that shocks form for β ≳ 3, but they are weak (with Mach numbers ∼1) for all β , and that they reach the center of the star prior to the time of maximum adiabatic compression for β ≳ 10. The maximum density and temperature reached during the TDE followmore »much shallower relations with β than the previously predicted ρ max ∝ β 3 and T max ∝ β 2 scalings. Below β ≃ 10, this shallower dependence occurs because the pressure gradient is dynamically significant before the pressure is comparable to the ram pressure of the free-falling gas, while above β ≃ 10, we find that shocks prematurely halt the compression and yield the scalings ρ max ∝ β 1.62 and T max ∝ β 1.12 . We find excellent agreement between our results and high-resolution simulations. Our results demonstrate that, in the Newtonian limit, the compression experienced by the star is completely independent of the mass of the black hole. We discuss our results in the context of existing (affine) models, polytropic versus non-polytropic stars, and general relativistic effects, which become important when the pericenter of the star nears the direct capture radius, at β ∼ 12.5 (2.7) for a solar-like star disrupted by a 10 6 M ⊙ (10 7 M ⊙ ) supermassive black hole.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  4. Abstract Upon entering the tidal sphere of a supermassive black hole, a star is ripped apart by tides and transformed into a stream of debris. The ultimate fate of that debris, and the properties of the bright flare that is produced and observed, depends on a number of parameters, including the energy of the center of mass of the original star. Here we present the results of a set of smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations in which a 1 M ⊙ , γ = 5/3 polytrope is disrupted by a 10 6 M ⊙ supermassive black hole. Each simulation has amore »pericenter distance of r p = r t (i.e., β ≡ r t / r p = 1 with r t the tidal radius), and we vary the eccentricity e of the stellar orbit from e = 0.8 up to e = 1.20 and study the nature of the fallback of debris onto the black hole and the long-term fate of the unbound material. For simulations with eccentricities e ≲ 0.98, the fallback curve has a distinct, three-peak structure that is induced by self-gravity. For simulations with eccentricities e ≳ 1.06, the core of the disrupted star reforms following its initial disruption. Our results have implications for, e.g., tidal disruption events produced by supermassive black hole binaries.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  5. Abstract The distribution of orbital energies imparted into stellar debris following the close encounter of a star with a supermassive black hole is the principal factor in determining the rate of return of debris to the black hole, and thus in determining the properties of the resulting lightcurves from such events. We present simulations of tidal disruption events for a range of β ≡ r t / r p where r p is the pericenter distance and r t the tidal radius. We perform these simulations at different spatial resolutions to determine the numerical convergence of our models. We comparemore »simulations in which the heating due to shocks is included or excluded from the dynamics. For β ≲ 8, the simulation results are well-converged at sufficiently moderate-to-high spatial resolution, while for β ≳ 8, the breadth of the energy distribution can be grossly exaggerated by insufficient spatial resolution. We find that shock heating plays a non-negligible role only for β ≳ 4, and that typically the effect of shock heating is mild. We show that self-gravity can modify the energy distribution over time after the debris has receded to large distances for all β . Primarily, our results show that across a range of impact parameters, while the shape of the energy distribution varies with β , the width of the energy spread imparted to the bulk of the debris is closely matched to the canonical spread, Δ E = GM • R ⋆ / r t 2 , for the range of β we have simulated.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  6. Abstract We present long-duration numerical simulations of the tidal disruption of stars modeled with accurate stellar structures and spanning a range of pericenter distances, corresponding to cases where the stars are partially and completely disrupted. We substantiate the prediction that the late-time power-law index of the fallback rate n ∞ ≃ −5/3 for full disruptions, while for partial disruptions—in which the central part of the star survives the tidal encounter intact—we show that n ∞ ≃ −9/4. For the subset of simulations where the pericenter distance is close to that which delineates full from partial disruption, we find that amore »stellar core can reform after the star has been completely destroyed; for these events the energy of the zombie core is slightly positive, which results in late-time evolution from n ≃ −9/4 to n ≃ −5/3. We find that self-gravity can generate an n ( t ) that deviates from n ∞ by a small but significant amount for several years post-disruption. In one specific case with the stellar pericenter near the critical value, we find that self-gravity also drives the recollapse of the central regions of the debris stream into a collection of several cores while the rest of the stream remains relatively smooth. We also show that it is possible for the surviving stellar core in a partial disruption to acquire a circumstellar disk that is shed from the rapidly rotating core. Finally, we provide a novel analytical fitting function for the fallback rates that may also be useful in a range of contexts beyond tidal disruption events.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 29, 2022
  7. ABSTRACT Synchrotron-emitting, non-thermal filaments (NTFs) have been observed near the Galactic centre for nearly four decades, yet their physical origin remains unclear. Here we investigate the possibility that NTFs are produced by the destruction of molecular clouds by the gravitational potential of the Galactic centre. We show that this model predicts the formation of a filamentary structure with length on the order of tens to hundreds of pc, a highly ordered magnetic field along the axis of the filament, and conditions conducive to magnetic reconnection that result in particle acceleration. This model therefore yields the observed magnetic properties of NTFsmore »and a population of relativistic electrons, without the need to appeal to a dipolar, ∼mG, Galactic magnetic field. As the clouds can be both completely or partially disrupted, this model provides a means of establishing the connection between filamentary structures and molecular clouds that is observed in some, but not all, cases.« less