Authors: Constanze Roedig, Alberto Sesana
Date: 24 Jul 2013
Abstract: We study the interplay between mass transfer, accretion and gravitational torques onto a black hole binary migrating in a self-gravitating, retrograde circumbinary disc. A direct comparison with an identical prograde disc shows that: (i) because of the absence of resonances, the cavity size is a factor a(1+e) smaller for retrograde discs; (ii) nonetheless the shrinkage of a circular binary semi--major axis, a, is identical in both cases; (iii) a circular binary in a retrograde disc remains circular while eccentric binaries grow more eccentric. For non-circular binaries, we measure the orbital decay rates and the eccentricity growth rates to be exponential as long as the binary orbits in the plane of its disc. Additionally, for these co-planar systems, we find that interaction (~ non--zero torque) stems only from the cavity edge plus a(1+e) in the disc, i.e. for dynamical purposes, the disc can be treated as a annulus of small radial extent. We find that simple 'dust' models in which the binary- disc interaction is purely gravitational can account for all main numerical results, both for prograde and retrograde discs. Furthermore, we discuss the possibility of an instability occurring for highly eccentric binaries causing it to leave the disc plane, secularly tilt and converge to a prograde system. Our results suggest that there are two stable configurations for binaries in self-gravitating discs: the special circular retrograde case and an eccentric (e~ 0.6) prograde configuration as a stable attractor.
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Tantum in modicis, quantum in maximis