Publications associated with Theoretical Astrophysics & Plasma Physics

Electromagnetic transients and gravitational waves from white dwarf disruptions by stellar black holes in triple systems

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Oxford University Press (OUP) (2020)

G Fragione, BD Metzger, R Perna, NWC Leigh, B Kocsis

Mergers of binaries comprised of compact objects can give rise to explosive transient events, heralding the birth of exotic objects which cannot be formed through single star evolution. Using a large number of direct N-body simulations, we explore the possibility that a white dwarf (WD) is dynamically driven to tidal disruption by a stellar-mass black hole (BH) as a consequence of the joint effects of gravitational wave (GW) emission and Lidov-Kozai oscillations imposed by the tidal field of a outer tertiary companion orbiting the inner BH-WD binary. We explore the sensitivity of our results to the distributions of natal kick velocities imparted to the BH and WD upon formation, adiabatic mass loss, semi-major axes and eccentricities of the triples, and stellar mass ratios. We find rates of WD-TDEs in the range $1.2\times 10^{-3}-1.4$ Gpc$^{-3}$ yr$^{-1}$ for $z\leq 0.1$, rarer than stellar TDEs in triples by a factor of $\sim 3$--$30$. The uncertainty in the TDE rates may be greatly reduced in the future using gravitational wave (GW) observations of Galactic binaries and triples with LISA. WD-TDEs may give rise to high energy X-ray or gamma-ray transients of duration similar to long gamma-ray bursts but lacking the signatures of a core-collapse supernova, while being accompanied by a supernova-like optical transient which lasts for only days. WD--BH and WD--NS binaries will also emit GWs in the LISA band before the TDE. The discovery and identification of triple-induced WD-TDE events by future time domain surveys and/or GWs could enable the study of the demographics of BHs in nearby galaxies.

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