The Formation and Evolution of Wide-orbit Stellar Multiples in Magnetized Clouds

Aaron T. Lee, Stella S.R. Offner, Kaitlin M. Kratter, Rachel A. Smullen, Pak Shing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Stars rarely form in isolation. Nearly half of the stars in the Milky Way have a companion, and this fraction increases in star-forming regions. However, why some dense cores and filaments form bound pairs while others form single stars remains unclear. We present a set of three-dimensional, gravo-magnetohydrodynamic simulations of turbulent star-forming clouds, aimed at understanding the formation and evolution of multiple-star systems formed through large-scale (⪆103 au) turbulent fragmentation. We investigate three global magnetic field strengths, with global mass-to-flux ratios of μ φ = 2, 8, and 32. The initial separations of protostars in multiples depend on the global magnetic field strength, with stronger magnetic fields (e.g., μ φ = 2) suppressing fragmentation on smaller scales. The overall multiplicity fraction (MF) is between 0.4 and 0.6 for our strong and intermediate magnetic field strengths, which is in agreement with observations. The weak field case has a lower fraction. The MF is relatively constant throughout the simulations, even though stellar densities increase as collapse continues. While the MF rarely exceeds 60% in all three simulations, over 80% of all protostars are part of a binary system at some point. We additionally find that the distribution of binary spin misalignment angles is consistent with a randomized distribution. In all three simulations, several binaries originate with wide separations and dynamically evolve to ≲102 au separations. We show that a simple model of mass accretion and dynamical friction with the gas can explain this orbital evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number232
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 20 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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