The incidence of stellar mergers and mass gainers among massive stars

S.E. de Mink, H. Sana, N. Langer, R.G. Izzard, F.R.N. Schneider

Carnegie Observatories / Caltech, Space Telescope Science Institute, Argelander Institute Bonn

Because the majority of massive stars are born as members of close binary systems, populations of massive main-sequence stars contain stellar mergers and products of binary mass transfer. We simulate populations of massive stars accounting for all major binary evolution effects based on the most recent binary parameter statistics and extensively evaluate the effect of model uncertainties.

Assuming constant star formation, we find that 8+9−4% of a sample of early type stars to be the product of a merger resulting from a close binary system. In total we find that 30+10−15% of massive main-sequence stars are the product of binary interaction.

We show that the commonly adapted approach to minimize the effects of binaries on an observed sample by excluding systems detected as binaries through radial velocity campaigns can be counterproductive. Systems with significant radial velocity variations are mostly pre-interaction systems. Excluding them substantially enhances the relative incidence of mergers and binary products in the non radial velocity variable sample.

This poses a challenge for testing single stellar evolutionary models. It also raises the question of whether certain peculiar classes of stars, such as magnetic O-stars, are the result of binary interaction and it emphasizes the need to further study the effect of binarity on the diagnostics that are used to derive the fundamental properties (star-formation history, initial mass function, mass to light ratio) of stellar populations nearby and at high redshift.

Reference: Tentatively scheduled for the February 1, 2014, V781 - 2 issue of ApJ.
Status: Manuscript has been accepted


Comments: 8 pages, 3 figures, accepted for publ. in ApJ