Bar mode instability in relativistic rotating stars: A post-Newtonian treatment

Stuart L. Shapiro, Silvia Zane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We construct analytic models of incompressible, uniformly rotating stars in post-Newtonian (PN) gravity and evaluate their stability against nonaxisymmetric bar modes. We model the PN configurations by homogeneous triaxial ellipsoids and employ an energy variational principle to determine their equilibrium shape and stability. The spacetime metric is obtained by solving Einstein's equations of general relativity in 3 + 1 ADM form. We use an approximate subset of these equations well suited to numerical integration in the case of strong-field, three-dimensional configurations in quasi equilibrium. However, the adopted equations are exact at PN order, where they admit an analytic solution for homogeneous ellipsoids. We obtain this solution for the metric, as well as analytic functionals for the conserved global quantities, M, M0, and J. We present sequences of axisymmetric, rotating equilibria of constant density and rest mass parametrized by their eccentricity. These configurations represent the PN generalization of Newtonian Maclaurin spheroids, which we compare to other PN and full relativistic incompressible equilibrium sequences constructed by previous investigators. We employ the variational principle to consider nonaxisymmetric ellipsoidal deformations of the configurations, holding the angular momentum constant and the rotation uniform. We locate the point along each sequence at which these Jacobi-like bar modes will be driven secularly unstable by the presence of a dissipative agent such as viscosity. We find that the value of the eccentricity, as well as related ratios such as Ω2/(πρ0) and T/|W| (=rotational kinetic energy/gravitational poten ial energy), defined invariantly, all increase at the onset of instability as the stars become more relativistic. Since higher degrees of rotation are required to trigger a viscosity-driven bar mode instability as the stars become more compact, the effect of general relativity is to weaken the instability, at least to PN order. This behavior is in stark contrast to that found recently for secular instability via nonaxisymmetric, Dedekind-like modes driven by gravitational radiation. These findings support the suggestion that in general relativity nonaxisymmetric modes driven unstable by viscosity no longer coincide with those driven unstable by gravitational radiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-561
Number of pages31
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1998


  • Gravitation
  • Instabilities
  • Relativity
  • Stars: interiors
  • Stars: neutron
  • Stars: rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Bar mode instability in relativistic rotating stars: A post-Newtonian treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this