AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 75. The Binary Star Community
Display, Wednesday, June 2, 1999, 10:00am-6:30pm, Southeast Exhibit Hall

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[75.04] Formation Mechanisms for Helium White Dwarfs in Binaries

E. L. Sandquist, R. E. Taam (Northwestern U.), A. Burkert (MPIA - Heidelberg)

We discuss the constraints that can be placed on formation mechanisms for helium degenerate stars in binary systems, as well as the orbital parameters of the progenitor binaries, by using observed systems and numerical simulations of common envelope evolution. For pre-cataclysmic variable stars having a helium white dwarf, common envelope simulations covering the range of observed companion masses indicate that the initial mass of the red giant (parent of the white dwarf) can be constrained by the final period of the system.

The formation mechanisms for double helium degenerate systems are also restricted. Using energy arguments, we find that there are almost no parameter combinations for which such a system can be formed using two successive common envelope phases. Observed short-period systems appear to favor an Algol-like phase of stable mass transfer followed by a common envelope phase. However, theory predicts that the brighter component is also the most massive, which is not observed in at least one system. This may require that nuclear burning must have occurred on the white dwarf that formed first, but after its formation. Systems which instead go through a common envelope episode, followed by a phase of nonconservative mass transfer from secondary to primary, would tend to form double degenerates with low mass ratios, which have not been observed to date. Finally, we discuss a new mechanism for producing subdwarf B stars in binaries.

This work was supported by NSF grants AST-9415423 and AST-9727875.

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