A study of early-type close binaries
It has become increasingly clear that many binary systems will pass through a common envelope stage at some point during their evolution. For short period systems composed of main-sequence 0 and early B stars this stage will probably occur for the first time towards the end of hydrogen-core burning in the primary component (case A evolution) rather than during the transition to the giant stage (case B evolution). If masses, radii, luminosities, temperatures and orbital parameters were well determined for a good sample of those systems, it could be established whether the individual components were so close that case A evolution was inevitable or whether the primary component had enough room to complete its main-sequence phase before reaching its Roche. limit and hence case B evolution. The latter mode has been studied extensively (both conservatively and non-conservatively) whereas the reception of matter by the secondary component in the rapid mass-transfer phase of case A evolution has only very recently been investigated. It is still one of the principal problems impeding further progress on this scenario. To resolve this situation and provide observational material with which to compare these theoretical models, an observing program was established to study systems of spectral type earlier than B5 and of orbital period of less than 1.8 in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Light curves were obtained at St Andrews using the newly-refurbished Twin Photometric Telescope and analysed using software developed specifically for this instrument. Further spectroscopic and photometric data were obtained at La Palma SAAO, Sierra Nevada and Boyden. Analyses of these spectroscopic and photometric observations have provided the necessary physical parameters to determine the evolutionary status of these systems. The systems observed were AH Cephei and V1182 Aquilae which are shown to be detached systems, TT Aurigae, SX Aurigae and AI Crucis which are all semi-detached systems and V701 Scorpii and HZ Pyxidis which are contact systems. Accurately-determined parameters of 14 stars have been found, including four 0 stars in detached systems. Therefore-the number of stars with well-determined masses of greater than 30M has been increased by 25%. It is clear from this study that case A mass transfer will play and has played an important role in the evolution of five out of the seven systems. It is debatable whether or not the contact systems have passed through a mass transfer phase, particularly RZ Pyx. The evolutionary history of this system is of particular interest, especially if this binary was in a marginal contact configuration when it arrived on the main sequence. Attempts have been made to look for intrinsic variability in these systems but no periodic variation has been found in any of them. If such a phenomenon exists in one of the components of the binaries in the sample then it must have an amplitude of less than 0.01. The comparison of the physical parameters of 67 stars compiled by the author from this work and from published data with theoretical zero-age and terminal-age main sequences shows that traditional modelling of semi-convection without mass loss is not adequate. Convective overshooting and mass loss play a very important role in the evolution of massive close binary systems of short period.