Detached white dwarf main-sequence star binaries

Willems, B. and Kolb, U. (2004). Detached white dwarf main-sequence star binaries. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 419(3) pp. 1057–1076.



We initiated a comprehensive state of the art binary population synthesis study of white dwarf main-sequence star (WDMS) binaries to serve as a foundation for subsequent studies on pre-cataclysmic variables, double white dwarfs, and white dwarf + B-star binaries. We considered seven distinct formation channels subdivided into three main groups according to the evolutionary process that gives rise to the formation of the white dwarf or its helium-star progenitor: dynamically stable Roche-lobe overflow (Algol-type evolution), dynamically unstable Roche-lobe overflow (common-envelope evolution), or stellar winds (single star evolution). For each formation channel, we examine the sensitivity of the population to changes in the amount of mass lost from the system during dynamically stable Roche-lobe overflow, the common-envelope ejection efficiency, and the initial mass ratio or initial secondary mass distribution. In the case of a flat initial mass ratio distribution, the local space density of WDMS binaries is of the order of ~10-3 pc-3. This number decreases to ~10-4 pc-3 when the initial mass ratio distribution is approximately proportional to the inverse of the initial mass ratio. More than 75% of the WDMS binary population originates from wide systems in which both components essentially evolve as if they were single stars. The remaining part of the population is dominated by systems in which the white dwarf is formed in a common-envelope phase when the primary ascends the first giant branch or the asymptotic giant branch. When dynamically stable mass transfer proceeds highly conservative and the common-envelope ejection process is very efficient, the birthrate of WDMS binaries forming through a common-envelope phase is about 10 times larger than the birthrate of WDMS binaries forming through a stable Roche-lobe overflow phase. The ratio of the number of helium white dwarf systems to the number of carbon/oxygen or oxygen/neon/magnesium white dwarf systems derived from large samples of observed WDMS binaries by, e.g., future planet-search missions such as SuperWASP, COROT, and Kepler may furthermore constrain the common-envelope ejection efficiency.

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