Colloquium

Liquid crystals of stars and black holes at the centers of galaxies

Galactic nuclei are the densest stellar environments in the Universe. Recent electromagnetic observations of the Galactic center revealed interesting structures including counter-rotating disks of massive stars embedded in the spherical stellar cluster. In this talk, I will show that these structures can be naturally explained by methods commonly used in condensed matter physics. The long-term gravitational interaction between stars and compact objects resembles the interaction of liquid crystals, which can exhibit phase transitions. I will present the results of state of the art simulations that utilize this tantalizing connection and discuss their implications. Disks of stars and black holes may be common in galactic nuclei which may provide the most abundant sources of gravitational waves for LIGO.

Followed by wine and cheese in Pupin 1402.

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