An alternative to common envelope evolution
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 09:15 by M. E. Beer, L. M. Dray, A. R. King, G. A. Wynn
We investigate the evolution of interacting binaries where the donor star is a low-mass giant more massive than its companion. It is usual to assume that such systems undergo common envelope (CE) evolution, where the orbital energy is used to eject the donor envelope, thus producing a closer binary or a merger. We suggest instead that because mass transfer is super-Eddington even for non-compact companions, a wide range of systems avoid this type of CE phase. The accretion energy released in the rapid mass-transfer phase unbinds a significant fraction of the giant's envelope, reducing the tendency to dynamical instability and merging. We show that our physical picture accounts for the success of empirical parametrizations of the outcomes of assumed CE phases.