Simulating the response of the secondary star of Eta Carinae to mass accretion at periastron passage

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We use high-resolution 3D hydrodynamical simulations to quantify the amount of mass accreted on to the secondary star of the binary system Eta Carinae, exploring two sets of stellar masses that had been proposed for the system, the conventional mass model (M1=120 M⊙ and M2=30 M) and the high-mass model (M1=170 M⊙; and M2=80 M⊙). The system consists of two very massive stars in a highly eccentric orbit. Every cycle close to periastron passage of the system experiences a spectroscopic event during which many lines change their appearance, accompanied by a decline in X-ray emission associated with the destruction of wind collision structure and accretion of the primary wind on to the secondary. We take four different numerical approaches to simulate the response of the secondary wind to accretion. Each affects the mass loss rate of the secondary differently, and, in turn, determines the amount of accreted mass. The high-mass model provides for most approaches much more accreted gas and a longer accretion phase. We find that the effective temperature of the secondary can be significantly reduced due to accretion. We also test different eccentricity values and a higher primary mass loss rate and find their effect on the duration of the spectroscopic event. We conclude that the high-mass model is better compatible with the amount of accreted mass, ≈ 3 × 10-6, M⊙, required for explaining the reduction in secondary ionization photons during the spectroscopic event and compatible with its observed duration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)926-935
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 11 Jun 2019


  • accretion, accretion discs
  • binaries: general
  • hydrodynamics
  • stars: individual (ηCar)
  • stars: winds, outflows


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