Strength of gravitational field at various locations in orbital plane of binary star system
The strength of the gravitational field at various locations in an orbital plane of a binary star system can be represented by the depth and structure of two overlapping "potential wells," and the size of each star can be represented by the level to which fluid fills each well. Mass transfer occurs when the fluid of one star completely fills its own potential well then spills over into the potential well (onto the surface) of the other star.
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A team lead by Joel Tohline, professor of astronomy at Louisiana State University, used computational fluid dynamics techniques to analyze how the structure of stars are altered by strong tidal forces in close binary star systems.
This research was supported by U.S. National Science Foundation grants AST 0407070 and PHY 0326311. Technical details about these simulations can be found at http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0512137. (Date of Image: July 2005)
Credit: Blake Harvey, NCSA
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