Observational identification of a sample of likely recent common-envelope events
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2022

One of the most poorly understood stellar evolutionary paths is that of binary systems undergoing common-envelope evolution, when the envelope of a giant star engulfs the orbit of a companion. The interaction that ensues leads to a great variety of astrophysical systems and associated phenomena, but happens over a very short timescale. Unfortunately, direct empirical studies of this momentous and complex phase are difficult at present because few objects experiencing, or having just experienced, common-envelope evolution are known. Here we present Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array observations of minor CO isotopologues towards a sample of sources known as water fountains, which reveal that almost all of them recently lost a substantial fraction of their initial mass over a timescale of less than a few tens to a few hundreds of years. The only known mechanism able to explain such rapid mass ejection, corresponding to a large fraction of the stellar mass, is the common-envelope evolution. A stellar population analysis shows that the number of water-fountain sources in the Milky Way is comparable to the expected number of common-envelope events that involve low-mass evolved stars. Thus, the known sample of water-fountain sources accounts for a large fraction of the systems undergoing a common-envelope phase in our Galaxy. As one of the distinguishing characteristics of water-fountain sources is their fast bipolar outflow, we conclude that outflows and jets play an important role right before, during or immediately after the common-envelope phase.


Theo Khouri

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Astronomi och plasmafysik

Wouter Vlemmings

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Astronomi och plasmafysik

Daniel Tafoya

Chalmers, Rymd-, geo- och miljövetenskap, Onsala rymdobservatorium

A. F. Perez-Sanchez

Universiteit Leiden

C. S. Contreras

Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB)

J. F. Gomez

Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucía (IAA)

Hiroshi Imai

Kagoshima University

R. Sahai

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Nature Astronomy

23973366 (eISSN)

Vol. 6 2 275-286

Undersökning av gamla sol-liknande stjärnor genom observationer med hög spatial upplösning

Vetenskapsrådet (VR) (2019-03777), 2020-01-01 -- 2023-12-31.

Onsala rymdobservatorium infrastruktur

Vetenskapsrådet (VR) (2017-00648), 2018-01-01 -- 2021-12-31.


Astronomi, astrofysik och kosmologi


Multidisciplinär geovetenskap



Mer information

Senast uppdaterat