The interaction of stellar objects within a common envelope

Paul M. Ricker, Ronald E. Taam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


We use high-resolution, three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations to study the hydrodynamic and gravitational interaction between stellar companions embedded within a differentially rotating common envelope. We evaluate the contributions of the nonaxisymmetric gravitational tides and ram pressure forces to the drag force and, hence, to the dissipation rate and the mass accumulated onto the stellar companion. We find that the gravitational drag dominates the hydrodynamic drag during the inspirai phase, implying that a simple prescription based on a gravitational capture radius significantly underestimates the dissipation rate and overestimates the inspirai decay timescale. Although the mass accretion rate fluctuates significantly, we observe a secular trend leading to an effective rate that is significantly less than the rate based on a gravitational capture radius. We discuss the implications of these results within the context of accretion by compact objects in the common-envelope phase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L41-L44
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Binaries: close
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Stars: evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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