Birth of a Be star: an APOGEE search for Be stars forming through binary mass transfer

Kareem El-Badry, Charlie Conroy, Eliot Quataert, Hans Walter Rix, Jonathan Labadie-Bartz, Tharindu Jayasinghe, Todd Thompson, Phillip Cargile, Keivan G. Stassun, Ilya Ilyin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Motivated by recent suggestions that many Be stars form through binary mass transfer, we searched the APOGEE survey for Be stars with bloated, stripped companions. From a well-defined parent sample of 297 Be stars, we identified one mass-transfer binary, HD 15124. The object consists of a main-sequence Be star (MBe=5.3 ± 0.6, M ⊙) with a low-mass (M donor=0.92 ± 0.22, M ⊙), subgiant companion on a 5.47-d orbit. The emission lines originate in an accretion disc caused by ongoing mass transfer, not from a decretion disc as in classical Be stars. Both stars have surface abundances bearing imprint of CNO processing in the donor's core: the surface helium fraction is YHe ≈ 0.6, and the nitrogen-to-carbon ratio is 1000 times the solar value. The system's properties are well-matched by binary evolution models in which mass transfer begins while a 3-5 M ⊙ donor leaves the main sequence, with the originally less massive component becoming the Be star. These models predict that the system will soon become a detached Be + stripped star binary like HR 6819 and LB-1, with the stripped donor eventually contracting to become a core helium-burning sdO/B star. Discovery of one object in this short-lived (∼1 Myr) evolutionary phase implies the existence of many more that have already passed through it and are now Be + sdO/B binaries. We infer that (10-60), percent of Be stars have stripped companions, most of which are ∼ 100 × fainter than the Be stars in the optical. Together with the dearth of main-sequence companions to Be stars and recent discovery of numerous Be + sdO/B binaries in the UV, our results imply that binarity plays an important role in the formation of Be stars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3602-3630
Number of pages29
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Volume516
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • binaries: spectroscopic
  • stars: abundances
  • stars: emission-line, Be

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