How to Rip Apart a Star – Samantha Wu – 01/14/2022

Stars can sometimes be destroyed by encounters with other nearby objects like black holes and massive stars. Join us to learn about these extreme gravitational environments where a star is literally ripped apart. Timestamps below:

00:00 Start
00:05 Announcements
04:44 Intro to Ripping Apart a Star
05:46 Ripping Apart a Star Presentation
36:19 Intro to Q&A Panel
39:08 How many tidal disruption events have we observed?
41:35 Do stars become tidally locked to black holes before disrupting?
45:24 Will the stars in the center of the Milky Way going to rip apart?
51:39 Would we see a supernova in the Milky Way?
55:17 Why are exo-moons in the news lately?
59:41 Would a Thorne-Zytkow object a common envelope object?
1:05:36 Can merging black holes be observed with LIGO?
1:09:06 Is the definition for a planet changing over time?
1:13:52 Why do stars explode?
1:19:28 Will the James Webb Telescope study black holes?
1:26:27 How durable are the mirrors of the James Webb Telescope to meteoroids?
1:32:55 Can there be accretion spheres instead of accretion disks?
1:36:18 Do 3-body systems of stars produce different outcomes than binary stars?
1:40:26 What gravitational distortions do black holes and supernovae produce? How do we study them?
1:50:15 Will charged black holes merging produce an electromagnetic signal?
1:52:55 Won’t wobbling planets and neutron stars cause gravitational waves too?
1:57:51 Are all of the gravitational wave sources interconnected?
1:59:31 What are your thoughts on the movie “Don’t Look Up!”?
2:02:43 Concluding Remarks


Samantha Wu is a third year astrophysics PhD student at Caltech. She studies the theory behind bright and fast events such as supernovae and the disruption of stars using simulations. Outside of research, she is part of the organizing committee for Caltech’s Gender Minorities and Women in Physics, Math, and Astronomy group and loves knitting and crosswords.

Nitika Yadlapalli is a fourth-year graduate student in the radio astronomy group at Caltech. She currently works on commissioning a new telescope called SPRITE at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and also on imaging black holes with the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. She is the president for Caltech’s Gender Minorities and Women in Physics, Math, and Astronomy group and when not doing research, she loves hiking, rock climbing, and making baked goods.

Ryan Rubenzahl is a fourth-year graduate student in astronomy at Caltech. He looks for exoplanets by observing the wobble of their stars with the goal of finding small planets like the Earth. He also stares at the Sun to better understand how the stars themselves contaminate our measurements. When not looking for planets, he enjoys rock climbing, softball, beer or mezcal flights, gaming, and has lately become addicted to Wordle.

Dr. Cameron Hummels is a postdoctoral researcher in theoretical astrophysics at Caltech. He creates supercomputer simulations to study the formation and evolution of galaxies since the Big Bang. In addition to astrophysics and public education, he is really enthusiastic about trail-running, Death Valley, long-distance backpacking, brewing, chess, and the astronaut program.

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