Journal Article

Counter-rotating stellar discs around a massive black hole: self-consistent, time-dependent dynamics

J. R. Touma and S. Sridhar

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 423, issue 3, pages 2083-2103
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI:
Counter-rotating stellar discs around a massive black hole: self-consistent, time-dependent dynamics

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We formulate the collisionless Boltzmann equation for dense star clusters that lie within the radius of influence of a massive black hole in galactic nuclei. Our approach to these nearly Keplerian systems follows that of Sridhar & Touma: Delaunay canonical variables are used to describe stellar orbits and we average over the fast Keplerian orbital phases. The stellar distribution function (DF) evolves on the longer time-scale of precessional motions, whose dynamics is governed by a Hamiltonian, given by the orbit-averaged self-gravitational potential of the cluster. We specialize to razor-thin, planar discs and consider two counter-rotating (‘±’) populations of stars. To describe discs of small eccentricities, we expand the ± Hamiltonian to fourth order in the eccentricities, with coefficients that depend self-consistently on the ± DFs. We construct approximate ± dynamical invariants and use Jeans’ theorem to construct time-dependent ± DFs, which are completely described by their centroid coordinates and shape matrices. When the centroid eccentricities are larger than the dispersion in eccentricities, the ± centroids obey a set of four autonomous equations ordinary differential equations. We show that these can be cast as a two-degree-of-freedom Hamiltonian system which is non-linear, yet integrable. We study the linear instability of initially circular discs and derive a criterion for the counter-rotating instability. We then explore the rich non-linear dynamics of counter-rotating discs, with focus on the variety of steadily precessing eccentric configurations that are allowed. The stability and properties of these configurations are studied as functions of parameters such as the disc mass ratios and angular momentum.

Keywords: instabilities; celestial mechanics; galaxies: nuclei

Journal Article.  9869 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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