Thermal energy points towards a disordered, completely uniform state act to counter gravity’s tendency to generate order and structure through gravitational collapse. It is, therefore, expected to contribute to the stabilization of a self-gravitating, classical ideal gas over collapse. However, I identified an instability that always occurs at sufficiently high energies: the high-energy or relativistic gravothermal instability. I argue here that this instability presents an analogous core–halo structure as its Newtonian counterpart, the Antonov instability. The main difference is that in the former case the core is dominated by the gravitation of thermal energy and not rest mass energy. A relativistic generalization of Antonov’s instability—the low-energy gravothermal instability—also occurs. The two turning points, which make themselves evident as a double spiral of the caloric curve, approach each other as relativistic effects become more intense and eventually merge in a single point. Thus, the high and low-energy cases may be realized as two aspects of a single phenomenon—the gravothermal instability—which involves a core–halo separation and an intrinsic heat flow. Finally, I argue that the core formed during a core-collapse supernova is subject to the relativistic gravothermal instability if it becomes sufficiently hot and compactified at the time of the bounce. In this case, it will continue to collapse towards the formation of a black hole.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited