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A strange and violent fate awaits a white dwarf star that wanders too close to a moderately massive black hole.
Ramirez-Ruiz and his collaborators--Stephan Rosswog of Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and William Hix of Oak Ridge National Laboratory--used detailed computer simulations to follow the entire process of tidal disruption of a white dwarf by a black hole. Their simulations included gas dynamics, gravity, and nuclear physics, requiring weeks of computer time to simulate events that would take place in a fraction of a second. A paper describing their results has been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters, and a preprint is currently available online.