EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 369, Number 3, April III 2001
Page(s) 939 - 959
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20010151

A&A 369, 939-959 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20010151

Formation of contact in massive close binaries

S. Wellstein1, N. Langer1, 2 and H. Braun3

1  Institut für Physik, Universität Potsdam, 14415 Potsdam, Germany
2  Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3  Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, 85740 Garching, Germany

(Received 7 September 2000 / Accepted 23 January 2001 )

We present evolutionary calculations for 74 close binaries systems with initial primary masses in the range 12...25$M_{\odot}$, and initial secondary masses between 6 and 24$M_{\odot}$. The initial periods were chosen such that mass overflow starts during the core hydrogen burning phase of the primary (Case A), or shortly thereafter (Case B). We use a newly developed binary code with up-to-date physics input. Of particular relevance is the use of OPAL opacities, and the time-dependent treatment of semiconvective and thermohaline mixing. We assume conservative evolution for contact-free systems, i.e., no mass or angular momentum loss from those system except due to stellar winds. We investigate the borderline between contact-free evolution and contact, as a function of the initial system parameters. The fraction of the parameter space where binaries may evolve while avoiding contact -which we found already small for the least massive systems considered -becomes even smaller for larger initial primary masses. At the upper end of the considered mass range, no contact-free Case B systems exist. While for primary masses of 16$M_{\odot}$ and higher the Case A systems dominate the contact-free range, at primary masses of 12$M_{\odot}$ contact-free systems are more frequent for Case B. We identify the drop of the exponent x in the main sequence mass-luminosity relation of the form $L\propto M^x$ as the main cause for this behaviour. For systems which evolve into contact, we find that this can occur for distinctively different reasons. While Case A systems are prone to contact due to reverse mass transfer during or after the primary's main sequence phase, all systems obtain contact for initial mass ratios below ~0.65, with a merger as the likely outcome. We also investigate the effect of the treatment of convection, and found it relevant for contact and supernova order in Case A systems, particularly for the highest considered masses. For Case B systems we find contact for initial periods above ~10 d. However, in that case (and for not too large periods) contact occurs only after the mass ratio has been reversed, due to the increased fraction of the donor's convective envelope. As most of the mass transfer occurs conservatively before contact is established, this delayed contact is estimated to yield to the ejection of only a fraction of the donor star's envelope. Our models yield the value of $\beta$, i.e., the fraction of the primaries envelope which is accreted by the secondary. We derive the observable properties of our systems after the major mass transfer event, where the mass gainer is a main sequence or supergiant O or early B type star, and the mass loser is a helium star. We point out that the assumption of conservative evolution for contact-free systems could be tested by finding helium star companions to O stars. Those are also predicted by non-conservative models, but with different periods and mass ratios. We describe strategies for increasing the probability to find helium star companions in observational search programs.

Key words: stars: evolution -- stars: binaries -- stars: blue stragglers -- stars: circumstellar matter

Offprint request: N. Langer, N.Langer@astro.uu.nl

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