The final parsec problem: Aligning a binary with an external accretion disc
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 08:53 by A. R. King, J. E. Pringle
We consider the interaction between a binary system (e.g. two supermassive black holes or two stars) and an external accretion disc with misaligned angular momentum. This situation occurs in galaxy merger events involving supermassive black holes, and in the formation of stellar mass binaries in star clusters. We work out the gravitational torque between the binary and disc, and show that their angular momenta Jb, Jd stably counteralign if their initial orientation is sufficiently retrograde, specifically if the angle θ between them obeys cos θ < −Jd/2Jb, on a time short compared with the mass gain time of the central accretor(s). The magnitude Jb remains unchanged in this process. Counteralignment can promote the rapid merger of supermassive black hole binaries, and possibly the formation of coplanar but retrograde planets around stars in binary systems.