Empirical Constraints on Common Envelope Evolution in Wide Binaries

Type Conference Paper
Names Aaron M. Geller, J. R. Hurley, R. D. Mathieu
Proceedings Title Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society
Conference Name American Astronomical Society, AAS Meeting #219, #132.07
Volume 219
Date January 1, 2012
URL http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2012AAS...21913207G
Library Catalog NASA ADS
Abstract If a giant star in a binary overfills its Roche lobe, the giant's convective envelope may respond by expanding faster than its Roche lobe, transferring mass on a dynamical time scale, and creating a common envelope (CE) that engulfs both stars. Orbital energy may then be transferred from the binary to the envelope, which can shrink the orbit and drive away the material, leaving behind a detached system containing the white dwarf core of the giant. Such a CE event is thought to be critical for explaining certain populations of exotic stars (e.g., cataclysmic variables). Yet the application of CE evolution to binary population synthesis and N-body or Monte Carlo star cluster models requires many poorly constrained assumptions, which may lead to unphysical evolutionary paths. In fact, we find that such fictitious systems are created regularly within our N-body models of the old (7 Gyr) open cluster NGC 188. Most notably, the model predicts a population of post-CE long-period ( 1000 days) circular solar-type main sequence - white dwarf binaries, that are not present in our observations of the true binaries in NGC 188, or any other solar-type binary population in the literature (in star clusters or in the field). The absence of such post-CE systems in real binary populations places important limits on parameters used in most models of CE evolution, and may suggest that more binaries undergo stable mass transfer than has previously been assumed. We discuss how various solutions to this problem would impact other observable stellar populations, including cataclysmic variables, symbiotic stars and blue stragglers.
UW-Madison Astronomy Home