Angular momentum exchange in white dwarf binaries accreting through direct impact

J. F. Sepinsky, V. Kalogera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We examine the exchange of angular momentum between the component spins and the orbit in semi-detached double white dwarf binaries undergoing mass transfer through direct impact of the transfer stream. We approximate the stream as a series of discrete massive particles ejected in the ballistic limit at the inner Lagrangian point of the donor toward the accretor. This work improves upon similar earlier studies in a number of ways. First, we self-consistently calculate the total angular momentum of the orbit at all times. This includes changes in the orbital angular momentum during the ballistic trajectory of the ejected mass, as well as changes during the ejection/accretion due to the radial component of the particle's velocity. Second, we calculate the particle's ballistic trajectory for each system, which allows us to determine the precise position and velocity of the particle upon accretion. We can then include specific information about the radius of the accretor as well as the angle of impact. Finally, we ensure that the total angular momentum is conserved, which requires the donor star spin to vary self-consistently. With these improvements, we calculate the angular momentum change of the orbit and each binary component across the entire parameter space of direct impact double white dwarf binary systems. We find a significant decrease in the amount of angular momentum removed from the orbit during mass transfer, as well as cases where this process increases the angular momentum of the orbit at the expense of the spin angular momentum of the donor. We conclude that, unlike earlier claims in the literature, mass transfer through direct impact need not destabilize the binary and that the quantity and sign of the orbital angular momentum transfer depends on the binary properties, particularly the masses of the double white dwarf binary component stars. This stabilization may significantly impact the population synthesis calculations of the expected numbers of events/systems for which double white dwarfs may be a progenitor, e.g., Type Ia supernovae, Type.Ia supernovae, and AM CVn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number157
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 20 2014


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • binaries: close
  • celestial mechanics
  • methods: numerical
  • stars: mass-loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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