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Chemical Evolution of Binary Stars

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 February 2014


R.G. Izzard
Affiliation:
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, Auf dem Hügel 71, 53121 Bonn, Germany

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Abstract

Energy generation by nuclear fusion is the fundamental process that prevents stars from collapsing under their own gravity. Fusion in the core of a star converts hydrogen to heavier elements from helium to uranium. The signature of this nucleosynthesis is often visible in a single star only for a very short time, for example while the star is a red giant or, in massive stars, when it explodes. Contrarily, in a binary system nuclear-processed matter can captured by a secondary star which remains chemically polluted long after its more massive companion star has evolved and died. By probing old, low-mass stars we gain vital insight into the complex nucleosynthesis that occurred when our Galaxy was much younger than it is today. Stellar evolution itself is also affected by the presence of a companion star. Thermonuclear novae and type Ia supernovae result from mass transfer in binary stars, but big questions still surround the nature of their progenitors. Stars may even merge and one of the challenges for the future of stellar astrophysics is to quantitatively understand what happens in such extreme systems. Binary stars offer unique insights into stellar, galactic and extragalactic astrophysics through their plethora of exciting phenomena. Understanding the chemical evolution of binary stars is thus of high priority in modern astrophysics.


Type
Research Article
Copyright
© EAS, EDP Sciences, 2014

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