Cool and luminous transients from mass-losing binary stars

Ondřej Pejcha, Brian D. Metzger, Kengo Tomida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


We study transients produced by equatorial disc-like outflows from catastrophically masslosing binary stars with an asymptotic velocity and energy deposition rate near the inner edge which are proportional to the binary escape velocity vesc. As a test case, we present the first smoothed-particle radiation-hydrodynamics calculations of the mass loss from the outer Lagrange point with realistic equation of state and opacities. The resulting spiral stream becomes unbound for binary mass ratios 0.06 ≲ q ≲ 0.8. For synchronous binaries with non-degenerate components, the spiral-stream arms merge at a radius of ~10a, where a is the binary semi-major axis, and the accompanying shock thermalizes about 10 per cent of the kinetic power of the outflow. The mass-losing binary outflows produce luminosities reaching up to ~106 L⊙ and effective temperatures spanning 500 ≲ Teff ≲ 6000 K, which is compatible with many of the class of recently discovered red transients such as V838 Mon and V1309 Sco. Dust readily forms in the outflow, potentially in a catastrophic global cooling transition. The appearance of the transient is viewing angle-dependent due to vastly different optical depths parallel and perpendicular to the binary plane. We predict a correlation between the peak luminosity and the outflow velocity, which is roughly obeyed by the known red transients. Outflows from mass-losing binaries can produce luminous (105 L⊙) and cool (Teff ≲ 1500 K) transients lasting a year or longer, as has potentially been detected by Spitzer surveys of nearby galaxies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4351-4372
Number of pages22
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 1


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


Dive into the research topics of 'Cool and luminous transients from mass-losing binary stars'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this