The formation pathways for gravitational-wave merger sources are predicted to include common envelope (CE) evolution. Observations of high-mass post-common envelope binaries suggest that energy transfer to the envelope during the CE phase must be highly efficient. In contrast, observations of low-mass post-CE binaries indicate that energy transfer during the CE phase must be highly inefficient. Convection, a process present in low-mass and high-mass stars naturally explains this dichotomy. Using observations of Wolf–Rayet binaries, we study the effects of convection and radiative losses on the predicted final separations of high-mass common envelopes. Despite robust convection in massive stars, the effect is minimal as the orbit decays well before convection can transport the liberated orbital energy to the surface. In low-mass systems, convective transport occurs faster then the orbit decays, allowing the system to radiatively cool, thereby lowering the efficiency. The inclusion of convection reproduces observations of low-mass and high-mass binaries and remains a necessary ingredient for determining outcomes of common envelopes.
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Convection reconciles the difference in efficiencies between low-mass and high-mass common envelopes
The formation of discs in the interior of AGB stars from the tidal disruption of planets and brown dwarfs
A significant fraction of isolated white dwarfs host magnetic fields in excess of a MegaGauss. Observations suggest that these fields originate in interacting binary systems where the companion is destroyed thus leaving a singular, highly magnetized white dwarf. In post-main-sequence evolution, radial expansion of the parent star may cause orbiting companions to become engulfed. During the common envelope phase, as the orbital separation rapidly decreases, low-mass companions will tidally disrupt as they approach the giant’s core. We hydrodynamically simulate the tidal disruption of planets and brown dwarfs, and the subsequent accretion disc formation, in the interior of an asymptotic giant branch star. Compared to previous steady-state simulations, the resultant discs form with approximately the same mass fraction as estimated but have not yet reached steady state and are morphologically more extended in height and radius. The long-term evolution of the disc and the magnetic fields generated therein require future study.
Volume complete sky surveys provide evidence for a binary origin for the formation of isolated white dwarfs with magnetic fields in excess of a MegaGauss. Interestingly, not a single high-field magnetic white dwarf has been found in a detached system, suggesting that if the progenitors are indeed binaries, the companion must be removed or merge during formation. An origin scenario consistent with observations involves the engulfment, inspiral, and subsequent tidal disruption of a low-mass companion in the interior of a giant star during a common envelope phase. Material from the shredded companion forms a cold accretion disc embedded in the hot ambient around the proto-white dwarf. Entrainment of hot material may evaporate the disc before it can sufficiently amplify the magnetic field, which typically requires at least a few orbits of the disc. Using three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations of accretion discs with masses between 1 and 10 times the mass of Jupiter inside the core of an Asymptotic Giant Branch star, we find that the discs survive for at least 10 orbits (and likely for 100 orbits), sufficient for strong magnetic fields to develop.