Segregation and Collisions in Galactic Nuclei: Rates of Destructive Events Near a Supermassive Black Hole

Shmuel Balberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The centers of galaxies host a supermassive black hole (SMBH) surrounded by a dense stellar cluster. The cluster is expected to develop mass segregation, in which gravitational scatterings among the stars cause heavier objects to sink closer to the central black hole, while lighter objects will tend to be overconcentrated in the outer regions. This work focuses on the implications of mass segregation on the different channels for violent destruction of stars in the cluster: tidal disruptions, gravitational-wave-driven inspirals and high-velocity destructive collisions between stars. All such events occur close to the central black hole, where the heavier objects congregate. The analysis is based on a simplified Monte Carlo simulation, which evolves a two-mass population in a cluster surrounding a Milky Way-like SMBH. The simulation is based on the single-mass scheme used by Sari & Fragione and Balberg & Yassur, which has been extended to allow for the dynamical friction effects typical of unequal-mass populations. The effects of mass segregation on the rates of the different destruction channels are analyzed self-consistently in the overall evolution of the cluster. Also considered are stars which are injected into the cluster after being disrupted from a binary system by the SMBH. Such stars are captured in the inner regions of the cluster, and so their orbital evolution, as well as their destruction rate, are therefore influenced by heavy objects that might be abundant in the vicinity of the SMBH.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number150
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society.


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