Chaotic dynamics of wide triples induced by galactic tides: a novel channel for producing compact binaries, mergers, and collisions

Evgeni Grishin, Hagai B. Perets

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Recent surveys show that wide (>104 AU) binaries and triples are abundant in the field. We study the long-term evolution of wide hierarchical triple systems and the role played by the Galactic tidal (GT) field. We find that when the time-scales of the secular von-Ziepel-Lidov-Kozai and the GT oscillations are comparable, triple evolution becomes chaotic which leads to extreme eccentricities. Consequently, the close pericentre approaches of the inner-binary components lead to strong interactions, mergers, and collisions. We use a novel secular evolution code to quantify the key parameters and carry out a population-synthesis study of low and intermediate-mass wide-orbit triples. We find that in ∼ 9 per cent of low-mass wide-triples the inner main-sequence binaries collide or tidally-inspiral within 10 Gyr, with direct collisions are 6 times more likely to occur. For the intermediate-mass sample, ∼ 7.6 per cent of the systems merge or inspiral with roughly equal probabilities. We discuss the relative fractions of different stellar merger/inspiral outcomes as a function of their evolutionary stage (Main Sequence, MS; Red Giant, RG; or White Dwarf, WD), their transient electromagnetic signatures and the final products of the merger/inspiral. In particular, the rate of WD-WD direct-collisions that lead to type-Ia Supernovae is comparable to other dynamical channels and accounts for at most 0.1 per cent of the observed rate. RG inspirals provide a novel channel for the formation of eccentric common-envelope-evolution binaries. The catalysis of mergers/collisions in triples due to GT could explain a significant fraction, or even the vast majority, of blue-stragglers in the field, produce progenitors for cataclysmic-variables, and give-rise to mergers/collisions of double-RG binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4993-5009
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • binaries: close
  • binaries: general
  • blue stragglers
  • Galaxy: kinematics and dynamics
  • stars: evolution
  • stars: kinematics and dynamics

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