Dynamical evolution of black hole-neutron star binaries in general relativity: Simulations of tidal disruption

Joshua A. Faber*, Thomas W. Baumgarte, Stuart L. Shapiro, Keisuke Taniguchi, Frederic A. Rasio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


We calculate the first dynamical evolutions of merging black hole-neutron star binaries that construct the combined black hole-neutron star spacetime in a general relativistic framework. We treat the metric in the conformal flatness approximation, and assume that the black hole mass is sufficiently large compared to that of the neutron star so that the black hole remains fixed in space. Using a spheroidal spectral methods solver, we solve the resulting field equations for a neutron star orbiting a Schwarzschild black hole. The matter is evolved using a relativistic, Lagrangian, smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) treatment. We take as our initial data recent quasiequilibrium models for synchronized neutron star polytropes generated as solutions of the conformal thin-sandwich (CTS) decomposition of the Einstein field equations. We are able to construct from these models relaxed SPH configurations whose profiles show good agreement with CTS solutions. Our adiabatic evolution calculations for neutron stars with low-compactness show that mass transfer, when it begins while the neutron star orbit is still outside the innermost stable circular orbit, is more unstable than is typically predicted by analytical formalisms. This dynamical mass loss is found to be the driving force in determining the subsequent evolution of the binary orbit and the neutron star, which typically disrupts completely within a few orbital periods. The majority of the mass transferred onto the black hole is accreted promptly; a significant fraction (â30%) of the mass is shed outward as well, some of which will become gravitationally unbound and ejected completely from the system. The remaining portion forms an accretion disk around the black hole, and could provide the energy source for short-duration gamma-ray bursts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024012
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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