EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 475, Number 3, December I 2007
Page(s) 875 - 882
Section Galactic structure, stellar clusters, and populations
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20078458

A&A 475, 875-882 (2007)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20078458

Quasi-binarity of massive stars in young dense clusters - the case of the Orion nebula cluster

S. Pfalzner and C. Olczak

I. Physikalisches Institut, University of Cologne, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Cologne, Germany
    e-mail: pfalzner@ph1.Uni-koeln.de

(Received 10 August 2007 / Accepted 25 September 2007)

Context.Observations indicate that in young stellar clusters the binary fraction for massive stars is higher than for solar mass stars. For the Orion Nebula Cluster (ONC) there is a binary frequency of ~50% for solar-mass stars compared to 70-100% for the massive O- and B-stars.
Aims.We explore the reasons for this discrepancy and come up with two possible answers: a) a primordially higher binarity of massive stars could be inherent in the star formation process or b) the primordial binary rate might be the same for solar-mass and massive stars, but the higher capture cross-section of the massive stars possibly leads to the formation of additional massive binaries in the early cluster development. Here we investigate the likelihood of the latter scenario in detail using the ONC as an example.
Methods.N-body simulations are performed to track the capture events in an ONC-like cluster.
Results.We find that, whereas low-mass stars rarely form bound systems through capture, the dynamics of the massive stars - especially in the first 0.5 Myr - is dominated by a rapid succession of "transient binary or multiple systems". In observations, the transient nature of these systems would not be apparent, so that they would be classified as binaries. At 1-2 Myr, the supposed age of the ONC, the "transient" massive systems become increasingly stable, lasting on average several 106 yr. Despite the ONC being so young, the observed binary frequency for massive stars - unlike that of solar-mass stars - is not identical to the primordial binary frequency, but is increased by at least 10-15% through dynamical interaction processes. This value might be increased to at least 20-25% by taking disc effects into account.
Conclusions.The primordial binary frequency could well be the same for massive and solar mass stars because the observed difference can be explained by capture processes alone.

Key words: binaries: general -- galaxies: clusters: general -- galaxies: clusters: individual: ONC -- methods: numerical

© ESO 2007