Compact binary stars

About 50 percent of stars in our Galaxy occur in binary systems. The orbits of such systems evolve with time due to a variety of mechanisms involving mass and angular momentum loss. In extreme cases orbital evolution leads to the merger of the two stars, and such mergers may be detected as gamma ray bursts or supernova explosions.

The student will be expected to review the theory of binary star evolution, as it presently stands, and to discuss attempts to link this theory to observations of gamma ray bursters. The project will have an analytical/numerical component where the student will be expected to solve the orbit evolution equation under simplifying assumptions. Some Astrophysics background may help, but it is not essential.