The Origin of Very Wide Binary Stars

M. B. N. Kouwenhoven, S. P. Goodwin, M. B. Davies, R. J. Parker, P. Kroupa, D. Malmberg

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


A large population of fragile, wide (>103 AU) binary systems exists in the Galactic field and halo. These wide binary stars cannot be primordial because of the high stellar density in star forming regions, while formation by capture in the Galactic field is highly improbable. We propose that these binary systems were formed during the dissolution phase of star clusters (see Kouwenkoven et al. 2010, for details). Stars escaping from a dissolving star cluster can have very similar velocities, which can lead to the formation of a wide binary systems. We carry out N-body simulations to test this hypothesis. The results indicate that this mechanism explains the origin of wide binary systems in the Galaxy. The resulting wide binary fraction and semi-major axis distribution depend on the initial conditions of the dissolving star cluster, while the distributions in eccentricity and mass ratio are universal. Finally, since most stars are formed in (relatively tight) primordial binaries, we predict that a large fraction of the wide “binary stars'' are in fact higher-order multiple systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics
  • Astrophysics - Galaxy Astrophysics


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