Hydrodynamics of Circumbinary Accretion: Angular Momentum Transfer and Binary Orbital Evolution

Diego J. Munoz, Ryan Miranda, Dong Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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We carry out 2D viscous hydrodynamical simulations of circumbinary accretion using the moving-mesh code AREPO. We self-consistently compute the accretion flow over a wide range of spatial scales, from the circumbinary disk (CBD) far from the central binary, through accretion streamers, to the disks around individual binary components, resolving the flow down to 2% of the binary separation. We focus on equal-mass binaries with arbitrary eccentricities. We evolve the flow over long (viscous) timescales until a quasi-steady state is reached, in which the mass supply rate at large distances Ṁ 0 (assumed constant) equals the time-averaged mass transfer rate across the disk and the total mass accretion rate onto the binary components. This quasi-steady state allows us to compute the secular angular momentum transfer rate onto the binary, {J}, and the resulting orbital evolution. Through direct computation of the gravitational and accretional torques on the binary, we find that {J} is consistently positive (i.e., the binary gains angular momentum), with l0 {J} Ṁ 0 in the range of (0.4 - 0.8)a b 2 ω b, depending on the binary eccentricity (where ȧb, ωb are the binary semimajor axis and angular frequency); we also find that this {J} is equal to the net angular momentum current across the CBD, indicating that global angular momentum balance is achieved in our simulations. In addition, we compute the timeaveraged rate of change of the binary orbital energy for eccentric binaries and thus obtain the secular rates{ȧb} and {ėb} . In all cases, {ȧb} is positive; that is, the binary expands while accreting. We discuss the implications of our results for the merger of supermassive binary black holes and for the formation of close stellar binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number84
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • accretion
  • accretion disks
  • binaries: general
  • black hole physics
  • stars: pre-main sequence


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