The influence of magnetic field on short-wavelength instability of Riemann ellipsoids

Mizerski K.A., Bajer K.

Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena

240 (20), 2011, 1629-1635, 10.1016/j.physd.2011.02.006

We address the question of stability of the so-called S-type Riemann ellipsoids, i.e. a family of Euler flows in gravitational equilibrium with the vorticity and background rotation aligned along the principal axis perpendicular to the flow. The Riemann ellipsoids are the simplest models of self-gravitating, tidally deformed stars in binary systems, with the ellipticity of the flow modelling the tidal deformation. By the use of the WKB theory we show that mathematically the problem of stability of Riemann ellipsoids with respect to short-wavelength perturbations can be reduced to the problem of magneto-elliptic instability in rotating systems, studied previously by Mizerski and Bajer [K.A. Mizerski, K. Bajer, The magneto-elliptic instability of rotating systems, J. Fluid Mech. 632 (2009) 401–430]. In other words the equations describing the evolution of short-wavelength perturbations of the Riemann ellipsoids considered in Lagrangian variables are the same as those for the evolution of the magneto-elliptic-rotational (MER) waves in unbounded domain. This allowed us to use the most unstable MER eigenmodes found in Mizerski et al. [K.A. Mizerski, K. Bajer, H.K. Moffatt, The -effect associated with elliptical instability, J. Fluid Mech., 2010 (in preparation)] to provide an estimate of the characteristic tidal synchronization time in binary star systems. We use the idea of Tassoul [J.-L. Tassoul, On synchronization in early-type binaries, Astrophys. J. 322 (1987) 856–861] and that the interactions between perturbations significantly increase the effective viscosity and hence the energy dissipation in an Ekman-type boundary layer at the surface of the star. The results obtained suggest that if the magnetic field generated by (say) the secondary component of a binary system is strong enough to affect the flow dynamics in the primary, non-magnetized component, the characteristic tidal synchronization time can be significantly reduced.