The dynamical evolution of very low mass binaries in open clusters


  • Richard J. Parker,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zürich, Wolfgang–Pauli–Strasse 27, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland
    2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7RH
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  • Simon P. Goodwin

    1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7RH
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Very low mass binaries (VLMBs), with system masses <0.2 M appear to have very different properties to stellar binaries. This has led to the suggestion that VLMBs form a distinct and different population. As most stars are born in clusters, dynamical evolution can significantly alter any initial binary population, preferentially destroying wide binaries. In this paper, we examine the dynamical evolution of initially different VLMB distributions in clusters to investigate how different the initial and final distributions can be.

We find that the majority of the observed VLMB systems, which have separations <20 au, cannot be destroyed in even the densest clusters. Therefore, the distribution of VLMBs with separations <20 au now must have been the birth population (although we note that the observations of this population may be very incomplete). Most VLMBs with separations >100 au can be destroyed in high-density clusters, but are mainly unaffected in low-density clusters. Therefore, the initial VLMB population must contain many more binaries with these separations than now, or such systems must be made by capture during cluster dissolution. M-dwarf binaries are processed in the same way as VLMBs and so the difference in the current field populations either points to fundamentally different birth populations or significant observational incompleteness in one or both samples.