Tidal stripping of stars near supermassive black holes
Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA
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In a binary system composed of a supermassive black hole and a star orbiting the hole in an equatorial, circular orbit, the stellar orbit will shrink due to the action of gravitational radiation, until the star fills its Roche lobe outside the Innermost Stable Circular Orbit (ISCO) of the hole or plunges into the hole. In the former case, gas will flow through the inner Lagrange point (L1) to the hole. If this tidal stripping process happens on a time scale faster than the thermal time scale but slower than the dynamical time scale, the entropy as a function of the interior mass is conserved. The star will evolve adiabatically, and, in most cases, will recede from the hole while filling its Roche lobe. We calculate how the stellar equilibrium properties change, which determines how the stellar orbital period and mass-transfer rate change through the “Roche evolution” for various types of stars in the relativistic regime. We envisage that the mass stream eventually hits the accretion disc, where it forms a hot spot orbiting the hole and may ultimately modulate the luminosity with the stellar orbital frequency. The ultimate goal is to probe the mass and spin of the hole and provide a test of general relativity in the strong-field regime from the resultant quasi-periodic signals. The observability of such a modulation is discussed along with a possible interpretation of an intermittent 1 hour period in the X-ray emission of RE J1034+ 396.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012
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