The evolution of cataclysmic binary systems is cyclical

The evolution of cataclysmic binary systems is cyclical in nature – throughout their life they constantly change from the state of the binary system to the state of a nova, a new star and a dwarf nova. Then the cycle repeats, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History found out, whose work was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Cataclysmic binary systems consist of a star like the Sun, a red dwarf, and a dead white dwarf, which gradually sucks energy and matter from its companion.

In the process of theft, the white dwarf forms a critical mass of hydrogen, which at a certain moment explodes like a super-powerful hydrogen bomb. These explosions highlight the system and temporarily make the white dwarf a million times brighter than the Sun.

In a new study, astronomers compiled a mathematical model that allowed us to track the phases that catastrophic binary systems undergo during evolution. The simulation was supposed to show what stages the red dwarf goes through under the influence of his companion.



Scientists have discovered that cataclysmic binaries do not just alternate through each of four states – nova, nova-like, dwarf nova and a separate binary system – throughout their lives. Just formed binary files during the first several million years of life alternate only the state of the new and new. Then, over the next 10% of lives, the number of phases increases to three — nova, nova-like and dwarf nova. During the remaining almost 90% of life, they continuously cycle through all four states.

“Statistically, this means that the systems that we observe are newborn systems. And this is less than about 5% of the total number of binary systems. The vast majority are at the following developmental stages, less noticeable for telescopes – therefore, science ignores them”.

Michael Shara, lead author of the study