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Numerical modelling of tertiary tides

Authors: Gao, Y; Correia, ACM; Eggleton, PP; Han, ZW

Ref.: Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 479(3), 3604-3615 (2018)

Abstract: Stellar systems consisting of multiple stars tend to undergo tidal interactions when the separations between the stars are short. While tidal phenomena have been extensively studied, a certain tidal effect exclusive to hierarchical triples (triples in which one component star has a much wider orbit than the others) has hardly received any attention, mainly due to its complexity and consequent resistance to being modelled. This tidal effect is the tidal perturbation of the tertiary by the inner binary, which in turn depletes orbital energy from the inner binary, causing the inner binary separation to shrink. In this paper, we develop a fully numerical simulation of these ‘tertiary tides’ by modifying established tidal models. We also provide general insight as to how close a hierarchical triple needs to be in order for such an effect to take place, and demonstrate that our simulations can effectively retrieve the orbital evolution for such systems. We conclude that tertiary tides are a significant factor in the evolution of close hierarchical triples, and strongly influence at least ∼1percent of all multiple star systems.