Institute of Astronomy

Binary Stars in Cambridge 2016

24 July 2016 - 30 July 2016

Now that multiplicity is known to be common among stars and that half the stars in our Galaxy have been or will be altered by interaction with at least one companion, the crucial role of binary star evolution in astrophysics in general has been established. Stellar interactions lead to a veritable zoo of exotic objects, many of which play crucial roles in the Universe. However, our understanding of many of the basic properties of binary stars - how they form, evolve and interact and how they ultimately die - is still incomplete. These issues cannot be ignored in fields of astrophysics spanning stellar cluster evolution, planet formation, galactic chemical evolution, etc. We plan to discuss many of the exciting implications of duplicity among stars. 

A great variety of transient sources, such as Type Ia supernovae and gamma-ray bursts, are produced when compact binaries spiral together through gravitational radiation emission or magnetic braking.  Crucial to the formation of these compact binaries is that they must tighten dramatically during interaction within a common envelope.  This process remains one of the most important but least well understood in astrophysics. At this meeting, we hope to confront the mystery of common envelope evolution with both observations and theory.


  • Binary star populations in clusters

  • Binary star populations in the field

  • Planet formation in binary systems

  • Evolution of planetary systems in binary stars

  • Common envelope evolution

  • Type Ia supernovae

  • Compact binary star evolution in the field

  • Compact binary star dynamical interactions in clusters

  • Transient sources produced when compact binaries merge

  • Binary stars with stable mass transfer

A new aspect of binary star evolution is revealed by the surprisingly large population of planetary systems orbiting around and within tight stellar systems.  Their discovery provides us with both great challenges and opportunities to understand planet formation. How do planets form in binary star discs and how do the planetary systems so formed subsequently evolve? Discussion of emerging ideas on planets in binary stars will play an exciting role at this meeting.  

We shall bring together international researchers working on these and related topics, combining both theory and observation, in a forum providing ample time for in-depth discussion. 

SOC:  Melvyn B. Davies (chairman), Christopher Tout (vice-chairman), Robert Izzard, Fred Rasio, Ross Church, Natasha Ivanova, Zhanwen Han, Cathie Clarke, Ian Bonnell

LOC: Christopher Tout (chairman), Robert Izzard (vice-chairman), Bob Argyle, Adeline Nicol, Douglas Boubert, Ghina Halabi, Sebastian Marino, Luca Matra, Arazi Pinhas, Holly Preece


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