Collapse of uniformly rotating stars to black holes and the formation of disks

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Simulations in general relativity show that the outcome of collapse of a marginally unstable, uniformly rotating star spinning at the mass-shedding limit depends critically on the equation of state. For a very stiff equation of state, which is likely to characterize a neutron star, essentially all of the mass and angular momentum of the progenitor are swallowed by the Kerr black hole formed during the collapse, leaving nearly no residual gas to form a disk. For a soft equation of state with an adiabatic index Γ-4/3 ≪ 1, which characterizes a very massive or supermassive star supported predominantly by thermal radiation pressure, as much as 10% of the mass of the progenitor avoids capture and goes into a disk about the central hole. We present a semianalytic calculation that corroborates these numerical findings and shows how the final outcome of such a collapse may be determined from simple physical considerations. In particular, we employ a simple energy variational principle with an approximate, post-Newtonian energy functional to determine the structure of a uniformly rotating, polytropic star at the onset of collapse as a function of polytropic index n, where Γ = 1 + 1/n. We then use this data to calculate the mass and spin of the final black hole and ambient disk. We show that the fraction of the total mass that remains in the disk falls off sharply as 3 - n (equivalently, Γ-4/3) increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-919
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004


  • Black hole physics
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Relativity
  • Stars: rotation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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