The dependence of episodic accretion on eccentricity during the formation of binary stars

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Context. Episodic accretion has been observed in short-period binaries, where bursts of accretion occur at periastron. The binary trigger hypothesis has also been suggested as a driver for accretion during protostellar stages.

Aims. Our goal is to investigate how the strength of episodic accretion bursts depends on eccentricity.

Methods. We investigate the binary trigger hypothesis in longer-period (> 20 yr) binaries by carrying out three-dimensional magnetohydrodynamical simulations of the formation of low-mass binary stars down to final separations of similar to 10 AU, including the effects of gas turbulence and magnetic fields. We ran two simulations with an initial turbulent gas core of one solar mass each and two different initial turbulent Mach numbers, M=sigma(v)/c(s)=0.1 and M=0.2, for 6500 yr after protostar formation.

Results. We observe bursts of accretion at periastron during the early stages when the eccentricity of the binary system is still high. We find that this correlation between bursts of accretion and passing periastron breaks down at later stages because of the gradual circularisation of the orbits. For eccentricities greater than e=0.2, we observe episodic accretion triggered near periastron. However, we do not find any strong correlation between the strength of episodic accretion and eccentricity. The strength of accretion is defined as the ratio of the burst accretion rate to the quiescent accretion rate. We determine that accretion events are likely triggered by torques between the rotation of the circumstellar disc and the approaching binary stars. We compare our results with observational data of episodic accretion in short-period binaries and find good agreement between our simulations and the observations.

Conclusions. We conclude that episodic accretion is a universal mechanism operating in eccentric young binary-star systems, independent of separation, and it should be observable in long-period binaries as well as in short-period binaries. Nevertheless, the strength depends on the torques and hence the separation at periastron.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA59
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2020

    Research areas

  • magnetohydrodynamics (MHD), binaries: general, stars: formation, stars: kinematics and dynamics, RADIATIVE FEEDBACK, MAGNETIC-FIELDS, ORBITAL DECAY, MASS, STELLAR, SYSTEMS, DISK, TURBULENT, COLLAPSE, OUTFLOWS

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