Angular momentum transport in double white dwarf binaries

Patrick M. Motl, Louisiana State University
Joel E. Tohline, Louisiana State University
Juhan Frank, Louisiana State University


We present simulations of dynamical mass transfer in a double white dwarf binary with an initial mass ratio of 0.4. The binary components are approximated as polytropes of index n = 3/2 and the synchronously rotating, semi-detached equilibrium binary is evolved hydrodynamically with the gravitational potential being computed through the solution of Poisson's equation. Upon initiating deep contact, the mass transfer rate grows by more than an order of magnitude over approximately ten orbits, as would be expected for dynamically unstable mass transfer. However, the mass transfer rate then reaches a peak value, the binary expands and the mass transfer event subsides over approximately 30 orbits. Despite the loss of orbital angular momentum into the spin of the accreting star, we find that the accretor's spin saturates and the binary responds as one would expect for a system with an accretion disk filling a substantial fraction of the accretor's Roche lobe. It appears that double white dwarf binaries may be more resilient against merger than previously anticipated though our simulations do not include radiation forces which may ultimately fill a common envelope which dooms the binary. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.