Stellar dynamics and extreme-mass ratio inspirals
by Amaro-Seoane, Pau
160 pages, two columns. Invited review to Living Reviews in Relativity. Some parts profit from arXiv:astro-ph/0703495, although they have been significantly expanded and improved
Nowadays it is well-established that in the centre of the Milky Way a massive black hole (MBH) with a mass of about four million solar masses is lurking. While there is an emerging consensus about the origin and growth of supermassive black holes (with masses larger than a billion solar masses), MBHs with smaller masses such as the one in our galactic centre remain an understudied enigma. The key to understanding these holes, how some of them grow by orders of magnitude in mass is to understand the dynamics of the stars in the galactic neighborhood. Stars and the central MBH chiefly interact through the gradual inspiral of the stars into the MBH due to the emission of gravitational radiation. Also stars produce gases which will be subsequently accreted by the MBH by collisions and disruptions brought about by the strong central tidal field. Such processes can contribute significantly to the mass of the MBH and progress in understanding them requires theoretical work in preparation for future gravitational radiation millihertz missions and X-ray observatories. In particular, a unique probe of these regions is the gravitational radiation that is emitted by some compact stars very close to the black holes and which will could be surveyed by a millihertz gravitational wave interferometer scrutinizing the range of masses fundamental to the understanding of the origin and growth of supermassive black holes. By extracting the information carried by the gravitational radiation, we can determine the mass and spin of the central MBH with unprecedented precision and we can determine how the holes “eat” stars that happen to be near them.