Ejection and capture dynamics in restricted three-body encounters

Shiho Kobayashi*, Yanir Hainick, Re'Em Sari, Elena M. Rossi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We study the tidal disruption of binaries by a massive point mass (e.g., the black hole at the Galactic center), and we discuss how the ejection and capture preference between unequal-mass binary members depends on which orbit they approach the massive object. We show that the restricted three-body approximation provides a simple and clear description of the dynamics. The orbit of a binary with mass m around a massive object M should be almost parabolic with an eccentricity of |1 - e| ≲ (m/M)1/3 ≪ 1 for a member to be captured, while the other is ejected. Indeed, the energy change of the members obtained for a parabolic orbit can be used to describe non-parabolic cases. If a binary has an encounter velocity much larger than (M/m) 1/3 times the binary rotation velocity, it would be abruptly disrupted, and the energy change at the encounter can be evaluated in a simple disruption model. We evaluate the probability distributions for the ejection and capture of circular binary members and for the final energies. In principle, for any hyperbolic (elliptic) orbit, the heavier member has more chance to be ejected (captured), because it carries a larger fraction of the orbital energy. However, if the orbital energy is close to zero, the difference between the two members becomes small, and there is practically no ejection and capture preferences. The preference becomes significant when the orbital energy is comparable to the typical energy change at the encounter. We discuss its implications to hypervelocity stars and irregular satellites around giant planets.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number105
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Galaxy: center
  • Galaxy: halo
  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • binaries: general
  • planets and satellites: formation
  • planets and satellites: individual (Triton)


Dive into the research topics of 'Ejection and capture dynamics in restricted three-body encounters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this