Tidal Disruption Events: The Role of Stellar Spin

Elen C.A. Golightly, Eric R. Coughlin, C. J. Nixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The tidal force from a supermassive black hole can rip apart a star that passes close enough in what is known as a Tidal Disruption Event (TDE). Typically, half of the destroyed star remains bound to the black hole and falls back on highly eccentric orbits, forming an accretion flow that powers a luminous flare. In this paper, we use analytical and numerical calculations to explore the effect of stellar rotation on the fallback rate of material. We find that slowly spinning stars (Ω ≲ 0.01Ω breakup ) provide only a small perturbation to fallback rates found in the non-spinning case. However, when the star spins faster, there can be significant effects. If the star is spinning retrograde with respect to its orbit, the tidal force from the black hole has to spin down the star first before disrupting it, causing delayed and sometimes only partial disruption events. However, if the star is spinning prograde, this works with the tidal force and the material falls back sooner and with a higher peak rate. We examine the power-law index of the fallback curves, finding that in all cases the fallback rate overshoots the canonical t -5/3 rate briefly after the peak, with the depth of the overshoot dependent on the stellar spin. We also find that, in general, the late time evolution is slightly flatter than the canonical t -5/3 rate. We therefore conclude that considering the spin of the star may be important in modeling observed TDE light curves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number163
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • black hole physics
  • hydrodynamics
  • stars: rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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