Preferential accretion and circumbinary disc precession in eccentric binary systems

Magdalena Siwek, Rainer Weinberger, Diego J. Muñoz, Lars Hernquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We present a suite of high-resolution hydrodynamic simulations of binaries immersed in circumbinary accretion discs (CBDs). For the first time, we investigate the preferential accretion rate as a function of both eccentricity eb and mass ratio qb in a densely sampled parameter space, finding that when compared with circular binaries, (i) mass ratios grow more efficiently in binaries on moderately eccentric orbits (0.0 ≾ eb ≾ 0.4), and (ii) high eccentricities (eb ≳ 0.6) suppress mass ratio growth. We suggest that this non-monotonic preferential accretion behaviour may produce an observable shift in the mass ratio distributions of stellar binaries and massive black hole binaries. We further find that the response of a CBD can be divided into three regimes, depending on eccentricity and mass ratio: (i) CBDs around circular binaries always precess freely, whereas CBDs around eccentric binaries either (ii) undergo forced precession or (iii) remain locked at an angle with respect to the binary periapsis. Forced precession in eccentric binaries is associated with strong modulation of individual accretion rates on the precession time-scale, a potentially observable signature in accreting binaries with short orbital periods. We provide CBD locking angles and precession rates as a function of eb and qb for our simulation suite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5059-5071
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • accretion
  • accretion discs
  • binaries
  • hydrodynamics
  • transients


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