Brown Bag Lunch Talk–Hypervelocity Stars (Speaker: Idan Ginsburg, CfA)

Monday April 1, 2013 12:05 pm

Since first discovered in 2005, stars ejected from the Milky Way, so-called hypervelocity stars (HVSs), have greatly increased our understanding of the kinematics and dynamics at the Galactic Center (GC). Using N-body simulations we show that an encounter between a binary star-system and the massive black hole (MBH) at the GC can result in the production of a HVS for one component of the binary, while the companion star remains in a tight orbit around the MBH. Such an encounter can also result in the coalescence of both stars. These mechanisms may explain the surprising appearance of massive stars within 1" of the GC. Continuing with our simulations, we find that the disruption of a triple system by the MBH can produce hypervelocity binaries. Such binaries may evolve into massive blue stragglers, while binaries captured by the MBH may be rejuvenated stars. Our simulations also predict that planets can be ejected from the GC at velocities approaching 5 percent the speed of light. Furthermore, HVSs may house planets that should be detectable as transits. The discovery of such a transit has important consequences for understanding planetary formation and evolution at the GC. We will also present photometry from 11 HVSs, taken February and May 2012, at the WIYN 3.5-meter and Hiltner 2.4-meter telescopes. Our photometry shows that a large percentage of the observed HVSs are likely slowly pulsating B stars, which constrains their nature and distance.

Event Contact

Thea Paneth