The evolution of the multiplicity of embedded protostars. II. Binary separation distribution and analysis.
CONNELLEY M.S., REIPURTH B. and TOKUNAGA A.T.
Abstract (from CDS):
We present the Class I protostellar binary separation distribution based on the data tabulated in a companion paper. We verify the excess of Class I binary stars over solar-type main-sequence stars in the separation range from 500 AU to 4500 AU. Although our sources are in nearby star-forming regions distributed across the entire sky (including Orion), none of our objects are in a high stellar density environment. A log-normal function, used by previous authors to fit the main-sequence and T Tauri binary separation distributions, poorly fits our data, and we determine that a log-uniform function is a better fit. Our observations show that the binary separation distribution changes significantly during the Class I phase, and that the binary frequency at separations greater than 1000 AU declines steadily with respect to spectral index. Despite these changes, the binary frequency remains constant until the end of the Class I phase, when it drops sharply. We propose a scenario to account for the changes in the Class I binary separation distribution. This scenario postulates that a large number of companions with a separation greater than ∼1000 AU were ejected during the Class 0 phase, but remain gravitationally bound due to the significant mass of the Class I envelope. As the envelope dissipates, these companions become unbound and the binary frequency at wide separations declines. Circumstellar and circumbinary disks are expected to play an important role in the orbital evolution at closer separations. This scenario predicts that a large number of Class 0 objects should be non-hierarchical multiple systems, and that many Class I young stellar objects (YSOs) with a widely separated companion should also have a very close companion. We also find that Class I protostars are not dynamically pristine, but have experienced dynamical evolution before they are visible as Class I objects. Our analysis shows that the Class I binary frequency and the binary separation distribution strongly depend on the star-forming environment.