Wide twin binaries are extremely eccentric: evidence of twin binary formation in circumbinary disks

11 May 2022  ·  Hsiang-Chih Hwang, Kareem El-Badry, Hans-Walter Rix, Chris Hamilton, Yuan-Sen Ting, Nadia Zakamska ·

The Gaia mission recently revealed an excess population of equal-mass "twin" wide binaries, with mass ratio $q\gtrsim 0.95$, extending to separations of at least 1000 AU. The origin of this population is an enigma: twin binaries are thought to form via correlated accretion in circumbinary disks, but the typical observed protostellar disks have radii of $\sim100$ AU, far smaller than the separations of the widest twins. Here, we infer the eccentricity distribution of wide twins from the distribution of their $v$-$r$ angles, i.e., the angle between the components' separation and relative velocity vectors. We find that wide twins must be on extremely eccentric orbits. For the excess-twin population at 400-1000 AU, we infer a near-delta function excess of high-eccentricity system, with eccentricity $0.95 \lesssim e \leq 1$. These high eccentricities for wide twins imply pericenter distances of order $10$ AU and suggest that their orbits were scattered via dynamical interactions in their birth environments, consistent with a scenario in which twins are born in circumbinary disks and subsequently widened. These results further establish twin wide binaries as a distinct population and imply that wide twins can be used as a probe of the dynamical history of stellar populations.

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Solar and Stellar Astrophysics Earth and Planetary Astrophysics Astrophysics of Galaxies