Binary stellar mergers with marginally bound ejecta: Excretion discs, inflated envelopes, outflows, and their luminous transients

Ondřej Pejcha, Brian D. Metzger, Kengo Tomida

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69 Citations (Scopus)


We study mass-loss from the outer Lagrange point (L2) in binary stellar mergers and their luminous transients bymeans of radiative hydrodynamical simulations. Previously, we showed that for binary mass ratios 0.06 ≲ q ≲ 0.8, synchronous L2 mass-loss results in a radiatively inefficient, dust-forming unbound equatorial outflow. A similar outflow exists irrespective of q if the ratio of the sound speed to the orbital speed at the injection point is sufficiently large, ε ≡ cT/vorb ≳ 0.15. By contrast, for cold L2 mass-loss (ε ≲ 0.15) from binaries with q ≲ 0.06 or q ≳ 0.8, the equatorial outflow instead remains marginally bound and falls back to the binary over tens to hundreds of binary orbits, where it experiences additional tidal torquing and shocking. As the bound gas becomes virialized with the binary, the luminosity of the system increases slowly at approximately constant photosphere radius, causing the temperature to rise. Subsequent evolution depends on the efficiency of radiative cooling. If the bound atmosphere is able to cool efficiently, as quantified by radiative diffusion time being shorter than the advection time (tdiff/tadv ≪1), then the virialized gas collapses to an excretion disc, while for tdiff/tadv ≳ 1 an isotropic wind is formed. Between these two extremes, an inflated envelope transports the heat generated near the binary to the surface by meridional flows. In all cases, the radiated luminosity reaches a fraction ∼10-2 to 10-1 of Mv2orb/2, where M is the mass outflow rate. We discuss the implications of our results for transients in the luminosity gap between classical novae and supernovae, such as V1309 Sco and V838 Mon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2527-2539
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sep 21
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries: close
  • Binaries: general
  • Stars: evolution
  • Stars: winds, outflows

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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