Binary stars are foundational to modern astrophysics. They underpin precision measurements of stellar structure, age, and composition; they provide the most stringent tests of general relativity, they make possible the study of faint and rare objects such as black holes and neutron stars, and they are the progenitors of gravitational wave sources. The components of binaries often interact, dramatically changing their evolution and giving rise to a spectacular zoo of astrophysical phenomenology. To understand stars — particularly massive stars — it is necessary to understand binaries. Large-scale stellar surveys such as Gaia, TESS, and SDSS-V are transforming the binary field, making possible both comprehensive population demographics and the discovery of rare objects. I will discuss new insights gleaned from surveys in recent years, including the creation of stripped-envelope stars following binary mass transfer, the formation of equal-mass “twin” binaries in circumbinary disks, the metallicity-dependence of the binary fraction, and the discovery of planets in binaries. I will focus in particular on the search for dormant stellar-mass black holes in binaries, discussing recent candidates and the path forward to characterizing the detached black hole population.
Host: Rob Simcoe