Scientists “drop” stars onto a virtual black hole

(ORDO NEWS) — Eight stars orbit a 1 million solar masses black hole – and ultimately fall into it in a new simulation by NASA scientists. As they approach a black hole, stars stretch and deform under the influence of the black hole’s gravity.

Some of the stars burst completely, turning into a thin jet of gas – a cataclysmic event known as a tidal burst event. Other stars are only partially torn apart, retaining some of their mass and returning to normal form after this terrible encounter.

These simulations, led by a research team led by Taiho Ryu of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Arching, Germany, combined the physical effects of Einstein’s General Relativity with realistic models of stellar density for the first time. The masses of these virtual stars ranged from one tenth the mass of the Sun to ten times the mass of our star.

Modeling has shown that the main factor determining the difference between stars completely torn apart by tidal forces from “more fortunate” luminaries is not the mass, but the density of the star’s matter.

Ryu and his team also studied the effect of other properties, such as the mass of a black hole or the distance a star approaches, on tidal rip events. These results will help astronomers estimate how often tidal rupture events occur in the Universe and will help in building detailed models of the course of these high-energy events.

The study is published in the Astrophysical Journal.


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