Virtual Department Colloquium: Tues February 2, 2021 - Surprising Impacts of Gravity Waves

Event Date: 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 - 4:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Zoom
  • Physics Department Colloquium

Surprising Impacts of Gravity Waves

Jim Fuller, Caltech



Gravity waves are low frequency fluid oscillations restored by buoyancy forces in planetary and stellar interiors. Despite their ubiquity, the importance of gravity waves in evolutionary processes has only recently been appreciated. Gravity waves asteroseismically measure the core rotation rates of red giant stars, informing new angular momentum transport models that predict slow rotation rates for white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. In the late phase evolution of massive stars approaching core-collapse, vigorous convection excites gravity waves that can carry huge amounts of energy within the star. The wave energy redistribution can drive outbursts and enhanced mass loss in the final years of massive star evolution, potentially leading to interaction-powered supernovae such as fast blue optical transients. Gravity waves can also be resonantly tidally excited in binary systems, causing energy dissipation and tidally induced migration. A resonance locking process with tidally excited gravity or inertial modes appears to be at work in the Saturn system, evidenced by the rapid outward migration of its largest moon, Titan.

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