Editors: Pau Amaro-Seoane & Bernard Schutz
The last GW Note is a Special Issues on eLISA/NGO

The Tidal Disruption of Giant Stars and Their Contribution to the Flaring Supermassive Black Hole Population

arXiv:1206.2922

by MacLeod, Morgan and Guillochon, James and Ramirez-Ruiz, Enrico
18 pages, 18 figures, submitted to ApJ

Sun-like stars are thought to be regularly disrupted by supermassive black holes (SMBHs) within galactic nuclei. Yet, as stars evolve off the main sequence their vulnerability to tidal disruption increases drastically as they develop a bifurcated structure consisting of a dense core and a tenuous envelope. Here we present the first hydrodynamic simulations of the tidal disruption of giant stars and show that the core has a substantial influence on the star’s ability to survive the encounter. Stars with more massive cores retain large fractions of their envelope mass, even in deep encounters. Accretion flares resulting from the disruption of giant stars should last for tens to hundreds of years. Their characteristic signature in transient searches would not be the $latex t^{-5/3}$ decay typically associated with tidal disruption events, but a correlated rise over many orders of magnitude in brightness on months to years timescales. We calculate the relative disruption rates of stars of varying evolutionary stages in typical galactic centers, then use our results to produce Monte Carlo realizations of the expected flaring event populations. We find that the demographics of tidal disruption flares are strongly dependent on both stellar and black hole mass, especially near the limiting SMBH mass scale of $latex \sim 10^8 M_\odot$. At this black hole mass, we predict a sharp transition in the SMBH flaring diet beyond which all observable disruptions arise from evolved stars, accompanied by a dramatic cutoff in the overall tidal disruption flaring rate. Black holes less massive than this limiting mass scale will show observable flares from both main sequence and evolved stars, with giants contributing up to 10% of the event rate. The relative fractions of stars disrupted at different evolutionary states can constrain the properties and distributions of stars in galactic nuclei other than our own.

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