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  1. The engulfment of substellar bodies (SBs) such as brown dwarfs and planets has been invoked as a possible explanation for the presence of SBs orbiting subdwarfs and white dwarfs, rapidly rotating giants, and lithium-rich giants. We perform three-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations of the flow in the vicinity of an SB engulfed in a stellar envelope. We model the SB as a rigid body with a reflective boundary because it cannot accrete. This reflective boundary changes the flow morphology to resemble that of engulfed compact objects with outflows. We measure the drag coefficients for the ram pressure and gravitational drag forces acting on the SB, and use them to integrate its trajectory during engulfment. We find that SB engulfment can increase the stellar luminosity of a 1M⊙ star by up to a few orders of magnitude for timescales of up to a few thousand years when the star is ≈10R⊙ and up to a few decades at the tip of the red giant branch. We find that no SBs can eject the envelope of a 1M⊙ star before it evolves to ≈10R⊙ . In contrast, SBs as small as ≈10MJup can eject the envelope at the tip of the red giant branch,more »shrinking their orbits by several orders of magnitude in the process. The numerical framework we introduce here can be used to study the dynamics of planetary engulfment in a simplified setting that captures the physics of the flow at the scale of the SB.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. Abstract Tidal disruption events (TDEs) provide a unique opportunity to probe the stellar populations around supermassive black holes (SMBHs). By combining light-curve modeling with spectral line information and knowledge about the stellar populations in the host galaxies, we are able to constrain the properties of the disrupted star for three TDEs. The TDEs in our sample have UV spectra, and measurements of the UV N iii to C iii line ratios enabled estimates of the nitrogen-to-carbon abundance ratios for these events. We show that the measured nitrogen line widths are consistent with originating from the disrupted stellar material dispersed by the central SMBH. We find that these nitrogen-to-carbon abundance ratios necessitate the disruption of moderately massive stars (≳1–2 M ⊙ ). We determine that these moderately massive disruptions are overrepresented by a factor of ≳10 2 when compared to the overall stellar population of the post-starburst galaxy hosts. This implies that SMBHs are preferentially disrupting higher mass stars, possibly due to ongoing top-heavy star formation in nuclear star clusters or to dynamical mechanisms that preferentially transport higher mass stars to their tidal radii.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Our understanding of the formation and evolution of binary black holes (BBHs) is significantly impacted by the recent discoveries made by the LIGO/Virgo collaboration. Of utmost importance is the detection of the most massive BBH system, GW190521. Here we investigate what it takes for field massive stellar binaries to account for the formation of such massive BBHs. Whether the high mass end of the BH mass function is populated by remnants of massive stars that either formed at extremely low metallicities and avoid the pair-instability mass gap or increase their birth mass beyond the pair-instability mass gap through the accretion of gas from the surrounding medium. We show that assuming that massive stars at very low metallicities can form massive BHs by avoiding pair-instability supernova, coupled with a correspondingly high formation efficiency for BBHs, can explain the observed BH mass function. To this end, one requires a relation between the initial and final mass of the progenitor stars at low metallicities that is shallower than what is expected from wind mass loss alone. On the other hand, assuming pair-instability operates at all metallicities, one can account for the observed BH mass function if at least about 10% of the BHsmore »born at very low metallicities double their mass before they merge because of accretion of ambient gas. Such BBHs will have to spend about a Gyr within a parsec length-scale of their parent atomic cooling halos or a shorter timescale if they reside in the inner sub-parsecs of their host dark matter halos. Future stellar evolution calculations of massive stars at very low metallicity and hydrodynamical simulations of gas accretion onto BBHs born in atomic cooling halos can shed light on this debate.« less
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  5. Interacting binaries are of general interest as laboratories for investigating the physics of accretion, which gives rise to the bulk of high-energy radiation in the Galaxy. They allow us to probe stellar evolution processes that cannot be studied in single stars. Understanding the orbital evolution of binaries is essential in order to model the formation of compact binaries. Here we focus our attention on studying orbital evolution driven by angular momentum loss through stellar winds in massive binaries. We run a suite of hydrodynamical simulations of binary stars hosting one mass losing star with varying wind velocity, mass ratio, wind velocity profile and adiabatic index, and compare our results to analytic estimates for drag and angular momentum loss. We find that, at leading order, orbital evolution is determined by the wind velocity and the binary mass ratio. Small ratios of wind to orbital velocities and large accreting companion masses result in high angular momentum loss and a shrinking of the orbit. For wider binaries and binaries hosting lighter mass-capturing companions, the wind mass-loss becomes more symmetric, which results in a widening of the orbit. We present a simple analytic formula that can accurately account for angular momentum losses and changesmore »in the orbit, which depends on the wind velocity and mass ratio. As an example of our formalism, we compare the effects of tides and winds in driving the orbital evolution of high mass X-ray binaries, focusing on Vela X-1 and Cygnus X-1 as examples.« less
  6. ABSTRACT The discovery of GRB 170817A, the first unambiguous off-axis short gamma-ray burst (sGRB) arising from a neutron star merger, has challenged our understanding of the angular structure of relativistic jets. Studies of the jet propagation usually assume that the jet is ejected from the central engine with a top-hat structure and its final structure, which determines the observed light curve and spectra, is primarily regulated by the interaction with the nearby environment. However, jets are expected to be produced with a structure that is more complex than a simple top-hat, as shown by global accretion simulations. We present numerical simulations of sGRBs launched with a wide range of initial structures, durations, and luminosities. We follow the jet interaction with the merger remnant wind and compute its final structure at distances ≳1011 cm from the central engine. We show that the final jet structure, as well as the resulting afterglow emission, depends strongly on the initial structure of the jet, its luminosity, and duration. While the initial structure of the jet is preserved for long-lasting sGRBs, it is strongly modified for jets barely making their way through the wind. This illustrates the importance of combining the results of global simulations withmore »propagation studies in order to better predict the expected afterglow signatures from neutron star mergers. Structured jets provide a reasonable description of the GRB 170817A afterglow emission with an off-axis angle θobs ≈ 22.5°.« less
  7. Stellar-mass black holes can become embedded within the gaseous disks of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Afterwards, their interactions are mediated by their gaseous surroundings. In this work, we study the evolution of stellar-mass binary black holes (BBHs) embedded within AGN disks using a combination of three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations and analytic methods, focusing on environments in which the AGN disk scale height H is ≳ the BBH sphere of influence. We model the local surroundings of the embedded BBHs using a wind tunnel formalism and characterize different accretion regimes based on the local properties of the disk, which range from wind-dominated to quasi-spherical. We use our simulations to develop prescriptions for mass accretion and drag for embedded BBHs. We use these prescriptions, along with AGN disk models that can represent the Toomre-unstable outer regions of AGN disks, to study the long-term evolution of the BBHs as they migrate through the disk. We find that BBHs typically merge within ≲5−30Myr , increasing their mass significantly in the process, allowing BBHs to enter (or cross) the pair-instability supernova mass gap. The rate at which gas is supplied to these BBHs often exceeds the Eddington limit, sometimes by several orders of magnitude. We concludemore »that most embedded BBHs will merge before migrating significantly in the disk. Depending on the conditions of the ambient gas and the distance to the system, LISA can detect the transition between the gas-dominated and gravitational wave dominated regime for inspiraling BBHs that are formed sufficiently close to the AGN ( ≲ 0.1 pc). We also discuss possible electromagnetic signatures during and following the inspiral, finding that it is generally unlikely but not inconceivable for the bolometric luminosity of the BBH to exceed that of the host AGN.« less
  8. Abstract We present deep X-ray and radio observations of the fast blue optical transient (FBOT) AT 2020xnd/ZTF 20acigmel at z = 0.2433 from 13 days to 269 days after explosion. AT 2020xnd belongs to the category of optically luminous FBOTs with similarities to the archetypal event AT 2018cow. AT 2020xnd shows luminous radio emission reaching L ν ≈ 8 × 10 29 erg s −1 Hz −1 at 20 GHz and 75 days post-explosion, accompanied by luminous and rapidly fading soft X-ray emission peaking at L X ≈ 6 × 10 42 erg s −1 . Interpreting the radio emission in the context of synchrotron radiation from the explosion’s shock interaction with the environment, we find that AT 2020xnd launched a high-velocity outflow ( v ∼ 0.1 c –0.2 c ) propagating into a dense circumstellar medium (effective M ̇ ≈ 10 − 3 M ⊙ yr −1 for an assumed wind velocity of v w = 1000 km s −1 ). Similar to AT 2018cow, the detected X-ray emission is in excess compared to the extrapolated synchrotron spectrum and constitutes a different emission component, possibly powered by accretion onto a newly formed black hole or neutron star. These propertiesmore »make AT 2020xnd a high-redshift analog to AT 2018cow, and establish AT 2020xnd as the fourth member of the class of optically luminous FBOTs with luminous multiwavelength counterparts.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023