Special TAPIR Seminar
Stars on orbits with pericenters sufficiently close to the supermassive black hole at the center of their host galaxy can be ripped apart by tidal stresses. Some of the resulting stellar debris becomes more tightly bound to the hole and can produce an observable flare called a tidal-disruption event (TDE). We provide a self-consistent, unified treatment of TDEs by non-spinning (Schwarzschild) black holes, investigating several effects of general relativity including changes to the boundary in phase space that defines the loss-cone orbits on which stars are tidally disrupted or captured. TDE rates decrease rapidly at large black-hole masses due to direct stellar capture, but this effect is slightly countered by the widening of the loss cone due to the stronger tidal fields in general relativity. We provide a new mapping procedure that translates between Newtonian gravity and general relativity, allowing us to better compare predictions in both gravitational theories. Partial tidal disruptions in relativity will strip more material from the star and produce more tightly bound debris than in Newtonian gravity for a stellar orbit with the same angular momentum. However, for deep encounters leading to full disruption in both theories, the stronger tidal forces in relativity imply that the star is disrupted further from the black hole and that the debris is therefore less tightly bound, leading to a smaller peak fallback accretion rate. We also examine the capture of tidal debris by the horizon and the relativistic pericenter precession of tidal debris, finding that black holes of 10^6 solar masses and above generate tidal debris precessing by 10 degrees or more per orbit.