Journal Article

A 3D dynamical model of the colliding winds in binary systems

E. R. Parkin and J. M. Pittard

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 388, issue 3, pages 1047-1061
Published in print August 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13511.x
A 3D dynamical model of the colliding winds in binary systems

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We present a three-dimensional (3D) dynamical model of the orbital-induced curvature of the wind–wind collision region in binary star systems. Momentum balance equations are used to determine the position and shape of the contact discontinuity between the stars, while further downstream the gas is assumed to behave ballistically. An Archimedean spiral structure is formed by the motion of the stars, with clear resemblance to high-resolution images of the so-called ‘pinwheel nebulae’. A key advantage of this approach over grid or smoothed particle hydrodynamic models is its significantly reduced computational cost, while it also allows the study of the structure obtained in an eccentric orbit. The model is relevant to symbiotic systems and γ-ray binaries, as well as systems with O-type and Wolf–Rayet stars.

As an example application, we simulate the X-ray emission from hypothetical O+O and WR+O star binaries, and describe a method of ray tracing through the 3D spiral structure to account for absorption by the circumstellar material in the system. Such calculations may be easily adapted to study observations at wavelengths ranging from the radio to γ-ray.

Keywords: hydrodynamics; methods: numerical; binaries: general; stars: early-type; stars: winds, outflows; X-rays: stars

Journal Article.  10205 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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