Binary interaction dominates the evolution of massive stars

H. Sana (1,*), S.E. de Mink (2,3†), A. de Koter (1,4), N. Langer (5), C.J. Evans (6), M. Gieles (7), E. Gosset (8), R.G. Izzard (5), J.-B. Le Bouquin (9), F.R.N. Schneider (5)

1. Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', Amsterdam University, Science Park 904, 1098 XH, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218 USA
3. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
4. Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, Princetonplein 5, 3584 CC, Utrecht, The Netherlands
5. Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, Universität Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany
6. UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, EH9 3HJ, UK
7. Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0HA, United Kingdom
8. F.R.S.-FNRS, Institut d'Astrophysique, Liège University, Allée du 6 Août 17, B-4000 Liège, Belgium
9. UJF-Grenoble 1 / CNRS-INSU, Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) UMR 5274, Grenoble, France
*Correspondence to:
†Hubble Fellow

The presence of a nearby companion alters the evolution of massive stars in binary systems, leading to phenomena such as stellar mergers, X-ray binaries and gamma-ray bursts. Unambiguous constraints on the fraction of massive stars affected by binary interaction were lacking. We simultaneously measured all relevant binary characteristics in a sample of Galactic massive O stars and quantified the frequency and nature of binary interactions. Over seventy per cent of all massive stars will exchange mass with a companion, leading to a binary merger in one third of the cases. These numbers greatly exceed previous estimates and imply that binary interaction dominates the evolution of massive stars, with implications for populations of massive stars and their supernovae.

Reference: Sana et al., Science, 337, 444-446 (2012)
Status: Manuscript has been accepted