Scientists have long understood that massive black holes lurking in galactic nuclei and weighing millions of Suns can disrupt stars that come too close. Due to intense tidal forces, the black hole’s gravity pulls harder on the nearest part of the star, an imbalance that pulls the star apart over a period of hours, once it gets inside the so-called “tidal radius”.
Now, Matthieu Brassart and Jean-Pierre Luminet of the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, France, say the strain of these tidal forces can also trigger a nuclear explosion powerful enough to destroy the star from within. They carried out computer simulations of the final moments of such an unfortunate star’s life, as it penetrates deeply into the tidal field of a massive black hole.When the star gets close enough the black hole (without falling into), the tidal forces flatten it into a pancake shape. Previous studies already performed by Luminet and collaborators twenty years ago had suggested this flattening would increase the density and temperature inside the star enough to trigger intense nuclear reactions that would tear it apart. But other studies had suggested that the picture would be complicated by shock waves generated during the flattening process, and that no nuclear explosion should occur.
The new simulations investigate the effects of shock waves in detail, and find that even when their effects are included, the conditions favour a nuclear explosion which will completely destroy the star, and which will be powerful enough to hurl much of the star’s matter out of the black hole’s reach.
Stellar fireworksThe tidal disruption of stars by black holes may already have been observed by X-ray telescopes such as GALEX, XMM and Chandra, although at a much later stage : several months after the event that rips the star apart, its matter starts swirling into the hole, heats up and releases ultraviolet light and X-rays. However, if pancake stars really do explode, then they could in principle allow these events to be detected at a much earlier stage. Future observatories, such as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will detect large numbers of supernovae, could turn up some explosions of this type.
But this might be not the only hazard facing the doomed star. Brassart and Luminet calculated that the shock waves inside the stellar pancake carry a brief (The rate of such "flambeed pancake stars" is estimated to about 0.00001 event per galaxy. Since almost every galaxy – including our own Milky Way – harbors a massive black hole in its centre, and since the universe is transparent to hard X and gamma radiation, several events of this kind per year should be detectable within the full observable universe.
The planned high-energy, all-sky surveys are the best suited to detect more flares of this type because of their large sky coverage. By providing a quick localization of flambeed stellar pancakes, followed by the detection of the corresponding afterglows in the optical, infrared, and radio bands, these missions could bring as much to the understanding of stellar disruptions by black holes as the Beppo-Sax and Swift telescopes did for the comprehension of gamma-ray bursts.
Jean-Pierre Luminet | alfa
Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte
17.08.2018 | Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT)
Protecting the power grid: Advanced plasma switch for more efficient transmission
17.08.2018 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2018 | Information Technology
17.08.2018 | Life Sciences