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Confusing Binaries: The Role of Stellar Binaries in Biasing Disk Properties in the Galactic Center

  • Author(s): Naoz, S
  • Ghez, AM
  • Hees, A
  • Do, T
  • Witzel, G
  • Lu, JR
  • et al.
Abstract

The population of young stars near the supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the Galactic Center (GC) has presented an unexpected challenge to theories of star formation. Kinematic measurements of these stars have revealed a stellar disk structure (with an apparent 20% disk membership) that has provided important clues regarding the origin of these mysterious young stars. However, many of the apparent disk properties are difficult to explain, including the low disk membership fraction and the high eccentricities given the youth of this population. Thus far, all efforts to derive the properties of this disk have made the simplifying assumption that stars at the GC are single stars. Nevertheless, stellar binaries are prevalent in our Galaxy, and recent investigations suggested that they may also be abundant in the Galactic Center. Here, we show that binaries in the disk can largely alter the apparent orbital properties of the disk. The motion of binary members around each other adds a velocity component, which can be comparable to the magnitude of the velocity around the SMBH in the GC. Thus, neglecting the contribution of binaries can significantly vary the inferred stars' orbital properties. While the disk orientation is unaffected, the apparent disk's 2D width will be increased to about 11.-2, similar to the observed width. For a population of stars orbiting the SMBH with zero eccentricity, unaccounted for binaries will create a wide apparent eccentricity distribution with an average of 0.23. This is consistent with the observed average eccentricity of the stars' in the disk. We suggest that this high eccentricity value, which poses a theoretical challenge, may be an artifact of binary stars. Finally, our results suggest that the actual disk membership might be significantly higher than the one inferred by observations that ignore the contribution of binaries, alleviating another theoretical challenge.

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