World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Thorne–Żytkow object

Article Id: WHEBN0000173838
Reproduction Date:

Title: Thorne–Żytkow object  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Neutron star, Neutron stars, Stellar evolution, Timeline of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and supernovae, Star
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Thorne–Żytkow object

A Thorne–Żytkow object (TŻO or TZO) is a type of star wherein a red giant or supergiant contains a neutron star at its core, formed from the collision of the giant with the neutron star. Such objects were hypothesized by Kip Thorne and Anna Żytkow in 1977.[1] In 2014, it was discovered that the star HV 2112 was a strong candidate.[2]


  • Formation 1
  • Properties 2
  • Dissolution 3
  • Observation history 4
  • List of candidate TŻOs 5
  • List of candidate former TŻOs 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


A Thorne–Żytkow object is formed when a neutron star collides with a star, typically a red giant or supergiant. The colliding objects can simply be wandering stars. This is only likely to occur in extremely crowded globular clusters. Alternatively, the neutron star could form in a binary system after one of the two stars went supernova. Because no supernova is perfectly symmetric, and because the binding energy of the binary changes with the mass lost in the supernova, the neutron star will be left with some velocity relative to its original orbit. This kick may cause its new orbit to intersect with its companion, or, if its companion is a main-sequence star, it may be engulfed when its companion evolves into a red giant.[3]

Once the neutron star enters the red giant, drag between the neutron star and the outer, diffuse layers of the red giant causes the binary star system's orbit to decay, and the neutron star and core of the red giant spiral inward toward one another. Depending on their initial separation, this process may take hundreds of years. When the two finally collide, the neutron star and red giant core will merge. If their combined mass exceeds the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit then the two will collapse into a black hole, resulting in a supernova that disperses the outer layers of the star. Otherwise, the two will coalesce into a single neutron star.

If a neutron star and a white dwarf merge, this could form a Thorne–Żytkow object with the properties of an R Coronae Borealis variable.[4]


The surface of the neutron star is very hot, with temperatures exceeding 109 K: hotter than the cores of all but the most massive stars. This heat is dominated either by nuclear fusion in the accreting gas or by compression of the gas by the neutron star's gravity.[5][6] Because of the high temperature, unusual nuclear processes may take place as the envelope of the red giant falls onto the neutron star's surface. Hydrogen may fuse to produce a different mixture of isotopes than it does in ordinary stellar nucleosynthesis, and some astronomers have proposed that the rapid proton nucleosynthesis that occurs in X-ray bursts also takes place inside Thorne–Żytkow objects.[7]

Observationally, a Thorne–Żytkow object may resemble a red supergiant,[8] or, if it is hot enough to blow off the hydrogen-rich surface layers, a nitrogen-rich Wolf–Rayet star (type WN8).[9]


It has been theorized that the evolution of TŻOs will result in neutron stars with massive accretion discs, as mass loss will end the TŻO stage, and the remaining envelope converts to being a disc.[10] These neutron stars may form the population of isolated pulsars with accretion discs.[10] The massive accretion disc may also result in the collapse of a star, becoming a stellar companion to the neutron star. The neutron star may also accrete sufficient material to collapse into a black hole.[11]

Observation history

As of 2014, the most recent candidate, star HV 2112, has been observed to have some unusual properties that suggest that it may be a Thorne–Żytkow object. The discovering team have noted that HV 2112 displays some chemical characteristics that don't quite match theoretical models, but emphasize that the theoretical predictions for Thorne–Żytkow object are quite old and theoretical improvements have been made since it was originally conceptualized.[8]

List of candidate TŻOs

Candidate Right Ascension Declination Location Discovery Notes Refs
HV 2112 01h 10m 03.87s −72° 36′ 52.6″ Small Magellanic Cloud 2014 This star was previously catalogued as an asymptotic-giant-branch star, but observationally is a better fit for red supergiant status. [8]
U Aquarii 22h 03m 19.69s −16° 37′ 35.2″ Aquarius 1999 This star was catalogued as a R Coronae Borealis variable. [4]
VZ Sagittarii 18h 15m 08.58s −29° 42′ 29.6″ Sagittarius 1999 This star was catalogued as a R Coronae Borealis variable. [4]

List of candidate former TŻOs

Candidate former TŻO Right Ascension Declination Location Discovery Notes Refs
GRO J1655-40 16h 54m 00.14s −39° 50′ 44.9″ Scorpius 1995 The progenitor for both the companion star and the black hole in this system is hypothesized to have been a TŻO. [11]

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ Levesque, Emily M.; Massey, Philip; Zytkow, Anna N.; Morrell, Nidia (2014). "Discovery of a Thorne–Żytkow object candidate in the Small Magellanic Cloud". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters 443: L94.  
  3. ^ Brandt, W. Niel; Podsiadlowski, Philipp (May 1995). "The effects of high-velocity supernova kicks on the orbital properties and sky distributions of neutron-star binaries".  
  4. ^ a b c Vanture, Andrew; Zucker, Daniel; Wallerstein, George (April 1999). "U Aquarii a Thorne–Żytkow Object?".  
  5. ^ Eich, Chris; Zimmerman, Mark;  
  6. ^ Cannon, Robert; Eggleton, Peter;  
  7. ^ Cannon, Robert (August 1993). "Massive Thorne–Żytkow Objects – Structure and Nucleosynthesis".  
  8. ^ a b c Levesque, Emily; Massey, Philip;  
  9. ^ Foellmi, C.; Moffat, A.F.J. (2002). "Are Peculiar Wolf-Rayet Stars of Type WN8 Thorne-Zytkow Objects?". In Shara, Michael M. Stellar Collisions, Mergers and their Consequences. ASP Conference Proceedings 263.  
  10. ^ a b Mereghetti, Sandro (1995). "A Spin-down Variation in the 6 Second X-Ray Pulsar 1E 1048.1-5937". Astrophysical Journal (December 1995) 455: 598.  
  11. ^ a b Brandt, W. Niel; Podsiadlowski, Philipp; Sigurðsson, Steinn (1995). "On the high space velocity of X-ray Nova SCO 1994: implications for the formation of its black hole".  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.