We assess whether gravity darkening, induced by a tidal interaction during a stellar fly-by, might be sufficient to explain the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse. Adopting several simple approximations, we calculate the tidal deformation and associated gravity darkening in a close tidal encounter, as well as the reduction in the radiation flux as seen by a distant observer. We show that, in principle, the duration and degree of the resulting stellar dimming can be used to estimate the minimum pericentre separation and mass of a fly-by object, which, even if it remains undetected otherwise, might be a black hole, neutron star, or white dwarf. Our estimates show that, while such fly-by events may occur in other astrophysical scenarios, where our analysis should be applicable, they likely are not large enough to explain the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse by themselves.
- stars: peculiar (except chemically peculiar)
- stars: variables: general
- transients: Tidal disruption events
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science