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Towards realistic modelling of multiple-star systems

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Observations have shown in recent years that multiple-star systems such as hierarchical triple- and quadruple-star systems are common, especially among massive stars. Such systems are potential sources of interesting astrophysical phenomena including compact object mergers leading to supernovae, and gravitational wave events such as those recently detected by LIGO /VIRGO. However, many uncertainties remain in their often complex evolution. In this talk, I will discuss recent developments in multiple-star evolution modelling in my newly-formed research group at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. I will present the new Multiple Stellar Evolution (MSE) code, a population synthesis code designed to rapidly model the stellar, binary, and dynamical evolution of multiple-star systems. New features of MSE in comparison to previous population synthesis codes include: 1) allowing for any number of stars, as long as the initial system is hierarchical, 2) dynamic switching between secular and direct N-body integration for fast yet accurate evolution of the gravitational dynamics, 3) treatment of mass transfer in eccentric orbits, which occurs commonly in multiple-star systems, 4) a simplified treatment of tidal, common-envelope, and mass transfer evolution in which the companion is a binary instead of a single star, and 5) support for including planets within the stellar system. I will also briefly discuss ongoing efforts in my group to improve upon existing prescriptions for tidal dissipation in stars, and talk about another code in development, namely a multiple-star module for the popular MESA stellar evolution code. The latter is detailed but computationally demanding, and it will complement the less accurate but fast MSE code.

This talk is part of the DAMTP Astrophysics Seminars series.

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