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Third Prize

Neutron Star Scattering off a Super Massive Black Hole

Tim Koby '11
Department of Physics
As planets experience gravitational forces, they move to minimize their total energy, which is a sum of both gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. In an attempt to minimize their energy when interacting with a massive black hole in the center of a galaxy, a large number of neutron stars scatter and enter eccentric orbits. As is seen in this picture, dense star environments can cause amazingly intricate patterns as the process progresses. Eventually, most of the stars escape the galaxy, leaving a less dense cluster that can interact with the central black hole in low-eccentricity orbits.