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Binary Interaction Dominates the Evolution of Massive Stars

Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 444-446
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223344

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Abstract

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. More than 70% 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.

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