Formation of black holes in the pair-instability mass gap: hydrodynamical simulations of a head-on massive star collision

Ballone, A.; Costa, G.; Mapelli, M.; MacLeod, M.; Torniamenti, S. & Pacheco-Arias, J.M.

The detection of the binary black hole merger GW190521, with primary black hole mass 85-0.14+21 M proved the existence of black holes in the theoretically predicted pair-instability gap (~60 − 120 M) of their mass spectrum. Some recent studies suggest that such massive black holes could be produced by the collision of an evolved star with a carbon-oxygen core and a main sequence star. Such a post-coalescence star could end its life avoiding the pair-instability regime and with a direct collapse of its very massive envelope. It is still not clear, however, how the collision shapes the structure of the newly produced star and how much mass is actually lost in the impact. We investigated this issue by means of hydrodynamical simulations with the smoothed particle hydrodynamics code STARSMASHER, finding that a head-on collision can remove up to 12 per cent of the initial mass of the colliding stars. This is a non-negligible percentage of the initial mass and could affect the further evolution of the stellar remnant, particularly in terms of the final mass of a possibly forming black hole. We also found that the main sequence star can plunge down to the outer boundary of the core of the primary, changing the inner chemical composition of the remnant. The collision expels the outer layers of the primary, leaving a remnant with an helium-enriched envelope (reaching He fractions of about 0.4 at the surface). These more complex abundance profiles can be directly used in stellar evolution simulations of the collision product.