Cool and Luminous Transients from Mass-Losing Binary Stars
Pejcha et al
We study transients produced by equatorial disk-like outflows from catastrophically mass-losing binary stars with an asymptotic velocity and energy deposition rate near the inner edge which are proportional to the binary escape velocity v_esc. As a test case, we present the first smoothed-particle radiation-hydrodynamics calculations of the mass loss from the outer Lagrange point with realistic equation of state and opacities. The resulting spiral stream becomes unbound for binary mass ratios 0.06 less than q less than 0.8. For synchronous binaries with non-degenerate components, the spiral-stream arms merge at a radius of ~10a, where a is the binary semi-major axis, and the accompanying shock thermalizes 10-20% of the kinetic power of the outflow. The mass-losing binary outflows produce luminosities proportional to the mass loss rate and v_esc, reaching up to ~10^6 L_Sun. The effective temperatures depend primarily on v_esc and span 500 less than T_eff less than 6000 K. Dust readily forms in the outflow, potentially in a catastrophic global cooling transition. The appearance of the transient is viewing angle-dependent due to vastly different optical depths parallel and perpendicular to the binary plane. The predicted peak luminosities, timescales, and effective temperatures of mass-losing binaries are compatible with those of many of the class of recently-discovered red transients such as V838 Mon and V1309 Sco. We predict a correlation between the peak luminosity and the outflow velocity, which is roughly obeyed by the known red transients. Outflows from mass-losing binaries can produce luminous (10^5 L_Sun) and cool (T_eff less than 1500 K) transients lasting a year or longer, as has potentially been detected by Spitzer surveys of nearby galaxies.