Partial, Zombie, and Full Tidal Disruption of Stars by Supermassive Black Holes

C. J. Nixon, Eric R. Coughlin, Patrick R. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We present long-duration numerical simulations of the tidal disruption of stars modeled with accurate stellar structures and spanning a range of pericenter distances, corresponding to cases where the stars are partially and completely disrupted. We substantiate the prediction that the late-time power-law index of the fallback rate n∞ ≃ -5/3 for full disruptions, while for partial disruptions - in which the central part of the star survives the tidal encounter intact - we show that n∞ ≃ -9/4. For the subset of simulations where the pericenter distance is close to that which delineates full from partial disruption, we find that a stellar core can reform after the star has been completely destroyed; for these events the energy of the zombie core is slightly positive, which results in late-time evolution from n ≃ -9/4 to n ≃ -5/3. We find that self-gravity can generate an n(t) that deviates from n∞ by a small but significant amount for several years post-disruption. In one specific case with the stellar pericenter near the critical value, we find that self-gravity also drives the recollapse of the central regions of the debris stream into a collection of several cores while the rest of the stream remains relatively smooth. We also show that it is possible for the surviving stellar core in a partial disruption to acquire a circumstellar disk that is shed from the rapidly rotating core. Finally, we provide a novel analytical fitting function for the fallback rates that may also be useful in a range of contexts beyond tidal disruption events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number168
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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