The Distribution of Stars and Stellar Remnants at the Galactic Center

David Merritt

(1) Department of Physics and Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623, USA

Paper: ApJ, submitted


Motivated by recent observations that suggest a low density of old stars around the Milky Way supermassive black hole, evolutionary models for the nuclear star cluster are considered that postulate a parsec-scale core as initial conditions. Gravitational encounters cause the core to shrink; a core of initial radius 1-1.5 pc evolves to a size of 0.5 pc after 10 Gyr, roughly the size of the observed core. The absence of a Bahcall-Wolf cusp is naturally explained. In these models, the time for a 10\msun black hole to spiral in to the Galactic center from an initial distance of 5 pc can be much greater than 10 Gyr. Assuming that the stellar black holes had the same phase-space distribution initially as the stars, their density after 5-10 Gyr is predicted to rise very steeply going into the stellar core, but to remain substantially below the densities inferred from steady-state models that include a steep density cusp in the stars. The implications of these models are discussed for the rates of gravitational-wave inspiral events and of other physical processes that depend on a high density of stars or stellar mass black holes near \sgr.

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