The common envelope (CE) binary interaction occurs when a star transfers mass onto a companion that cannot fully accrete it. The interaction can lead to a merger of the two objects or to a close binary. The CE interaction is the gateway of all evolved compact binaries, all stellar mergers, and likely many of the stellar transients witnessed to date. CE simulations are needed to understand this interaction and to interpret stars and binaries thought to be the byproduct of this stage. At this time, simulations are unable to reproduce the few observational data available and several ideas have been put forward to address their shortcomings. The need for more definitive simulation validation is pressing and is already being fulfilled by observations from time-domain surveys. In this article, we present an initial method and its implementation for post-processing grid-based CE simulations to produce the light curve so as to compare simulations with upcoming observations. Here we implemented a zeroth order method to calculate the light emitted from CE hydrodynamic simulations carried out with the 3D hydrodynamic code Enzo used in unigrid mode. The code implements an approach for the computation of luminosity in both optically thick and optically thin regimes and is tested using the first 135 days of the CE simulation of Passy et al., where a 0.8 M o red giant branch star interacts with a 0.6 M o companion. This code is used to highlight two large obstacles that need to be overcome before realistic light curves can be calculated. We explain the nature of these problems and the attempted solutions and approximations in full detail to enable the next step to be identified and implemented. We also discuss our simulation in relation to recent data of transients identified as CE interactions.
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- binaries: close
- methods: data analysis
- methods: numerical
- stars: luminosity function, mass function