Stellar response of giants upon mass loss
We study the response of giant stars to mass loss. One-dimensional simulations of red and asymptotic giant branch stars with mass loss rates from 10−3 up to a few M⊙yr−1 show in no case any significant radius increase. The largest radius increase of 0.2% was found in the case with the lowest mass loss rate. For dynamical-timescale mass loss rates that may be encountered during a common envelope phase, the evolution is not adiabatic. The superadiabatic outer layer of the giant’s envelope has a local thermal timescale comparable to the dynamical timescale. Therefore, this layer has enough time to readjust thermally. Moreover, the giant star is driven out of hydrostatic equilibrium and evolves dynamically. In these cases no increase of the stellar radius with respect to its initial value is found. If the mass loss rate is high enough, the superadiabaticity of the outer layer is lost progressively and a radiative zone forms due to a combination of thermal and dynamical readjustment. Conditions for unstable mass transfer based on adiabatic mass loss models that predict a significant radius increase may need to be re-evaluated.