The limited role of recombination energy in common envelope removal

Aldana Grichener, Efrat Sabach, Noam Soker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We calculate the outward energy transport time by convection and photon diffusion in an inflated common envelope and find this time to be shorter than the envelope expansion time. We conclude therefore that most of the hydrogen recombination energy ends in radiation rather than in kinetic energy of the outflowing envelope. We use the stellar evolution code MESA and inject energy inside the envelope of an asymptotic giant branch star to mimic energy deposition by a spiralling-in stellar companion. During 1.7 yr the envelope expands by a factor of more than 2. Along the entire evolution the convection can carry the energy very efficiently outwards, to the radius where radiative transfer becomes more efficient. The total energy transport time stays within several months, shorter than the dynamical time of the envelope. Had we included rapid mass loss, as is expected in the common envelope evolution, the energy transport time would have been even shorter. It seems that calculations that assume that most of the recombination energy ends in the outflowing gas might be inaccurate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1818-1824
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Binaries: close
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • Stars: mass-loss

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