Circumbinary disks and cataclysmic variable evolution

H. C. Spruit*, Ronald E. Taam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The influence of a circumbinary (CB) disk on the evolution of cataclysmic variable (CV) binary systems is investigated. We show that CB mass surface densities sufficient to influence the evolution rate are plausibly provided by the outflows observed in CVs, if the net effect of these winds is to deliver 10-4 to 10-3 of the mass transfer rate to the CB disk. The torque exerted by the CB disk provides a positive feedback between mass transfer rate and CB disk mass that can lead to mass transfer rates of ∼10-8 to 10-7 M yr-1. This mechanism may be responsible for causing the range of variation of mass transfer rates in CVs. In particular, it may explain rates inferred for the nova-like variables and the supersoft X-ray binary systems observed near the upper edge of the period gap (P ∼ 3-4 hr), as well as the spread in mass transfer rates above and below the period gap. Consequences and the possible observability of such disks are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-907
Number of pages8
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - Feb 20 2001


  • Binaries: close
  • Novae, cataclysmic variables
  • Stars: evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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