Vol 7, No 2

On the Physical Processes in Contact Binary Systems

Run-Qian Huang, Han-Feng Song, Shao-Lan Bi


Abstract Three important physical processes occurring in contact binary systems are studied. The first one is the effect of spin, orbital rotation and tide on the structure of the components, which includes also the effect of meridian circulation on the mixing of the chemical elements in the components. The second one is the mass and energy exchange between the components. To describe the energy exchange, a new approach is introduced based on the understanding that the exchange is due to the release of the potential, kinetic and thermal energy of the exchanged mass. The third is the loss of mass and angular momentum through the outer Lagrangian point. The rate of mass loss and the angular momentum carried away by the lost mass are discussed. To show the effects of these processes, we follow the evolution of a binary system consisting of a 12M⊙ and a 5M⊙ star with mass exchange between the components and mass loss via the outer Lagrangian point, both with and without considering the effects of rotation and tide. The result shows that the effect of rotation and tide advances the start of the semi-detached and the contact phases, and delays the end of the hydrogen-burning phase of the primary. Furthermore, it can change not only the occurrence of mass and angular momentum loss via the outer Lagrangian point, but also the contact or semi-contact status of the system. Thus, this effect can result in the special phenomenon of short-term variations occurring over a slow increase of the orbital period. The occurrence of mass and angular momentum loss via the outer Lagrangian point can affect the orbital period of the system significantly, but this process can be influenced, even suppressed out by the effect of rotation and tide. The mass and energy exchange occurs in the common envelope. The net result of the mass exchange process is a mass transfer from the primary to the secondary during the whole contact phase.



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