The secular bar-mode instability in rapidly rotating stars revisited

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uniformly rotating, homogeneous, incompressible Maclaurin spheroids that spin sufficiently rapidly are secularly unstable to nonaxisymmetric, bar-mode perturbations when viscosity is present. The intuitive explanation is that energy dissipation by viscosity can drive an unstable spheroid to a stable, triaxial configuration of lower energy-a Jacobi ellipsoid. But what about rapidly rotating compressible stars? Unlike incompressible stars, which contain no internal energy and therefore immediately liberate all the energy dissipated by viscosity, compressible stars have internal energy and can retain the dissipated energy as internal heat. Now compressible stars that rotate sufficiently rapidly and also manage to liberate this dissipated energy very quickly are known to be unstable to bar-mode perturbations, like their incompressible counterparts. But what is the situation for rapidly rotating compressible stars that have very long cooling timescales, so that all the energy dissipated by viscosity is retained as heat, and the total energy of the star remains constant on a secular (viscous) evolution timescale? Are such stars also unstable to the nonlinear growth of bar modes, or is the viscous heating sufficient to cause them to expand, drive down the ratio of rotational kinetic to gravitational potential energy T/|W| ∝ Req-1, where Req is the equatorial radius, and turn off the instability before it gets underway? Alternatively, if the instability still arises in such stars, at what rotation rate do they become unstable, and to what final state do they evolve? We provide definitive answers to these questions in the context of the compressible ellipsoid model for rotating stars. The results should serve as useful guides for numerical simulations that solve the exact Navier-Stokes equations in 3 + 1 dimensions for rotating stars containing viscosity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1213-1220
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Oct 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The secular bar-mode instability in rapidly rotating stars revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this