Dynamical evolution of triple-star systems by Lidov-Kozai cycles and tidal friction

M. Bataille, A.-S. Libert, A. C.M. Correia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many triple-star systems have an inner pair with an orbital period of a few days only. A common mechanism to explain the short-period pile-up present in the observations is the migration through Lidov-Kozai cycles combined with tidal friction. Here, we revisit this mechanism and aim to determine the initial orbital configurations leading to this process. We show that the mutual inclination of the triple-star system is not the only critical parameter, since the eccentricity as well as the argument of the pericentre of the inner orbit also play an important role in the establishment of the Lidov-Kozai migration. Our framework is the secular hierarchical three-body problem (octupole order approximation) with general relativity corrections, including the effects of tides, stellar oblateness, and magnetic spin-down braking. Both the orbital and the spin evolutions are considered. Extensive numerical simulations with uniform and non-uniform distributions of the initial orbital parameters are carried out, and unbiased initial conditions leading to Lidov-Kozai migration are revealed. Finally, we highlight the importance of the initial 'Kozai constant' h = √(1 - e2) cos i in the dynamical evolution of triple-star systems, by showing that phase portraits at given h-values unveil different evolution paths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4749-4759
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Binaries: close
  • Celestial mechanics
  • Methods: analytical
  • Methods: numerical
  • Stars: kinematics and dynamics


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