EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 365, Number 3, January III 2001
Page(s) 491 - 507
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20000147
Published online 15 January 2001

A&A 365, 491-507 (2001)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20000147

Population synthesis for double white dwarfs

I. Close detached systems
G. Nelemans1, L. R. Yungelson1, 2, S. F. Portegies Zwart3 and F. Verbunt4

1  Astronomical Institute "Anton Pannekoek", Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2  Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 48 Pyatnitskaya Str., 109017 Moscow, Russia
3  Department of Physics and Center for Space Research, MIT, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
4  Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, PO Box 80000, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands

(Received 3 July 2000 / Accepted 19 October 2000 )

We model the population of double white dwarfs in the Galaxy and find a better agreement with observations compared to earlier studies, due to two modifications. The first is the treatment of the first phase of unstable mass transfer and the second the modelling of the cooling of the white dwarfs. A satisfactory agreement with observations of the local sample of white dwarfs is achieved if we assume that the initial binary fraction is $\sim$50% and that the lowest mass white dwarfs ( $M <
0.3 M_\odot$) cool faster than the most recently published cooling models predict. With this model we find a Galactic birth rate of close double white dwarfs of 0.05 yr-1, a birth rate of AM CVn systems of 0.005 yr-1, a merger rate of pairs with a combined mass exceeding the Chandrasekhar limit (which may be progenitors of SNe Ia) of 0.003 yr-1 and a formation rate of planetary nebulae of 1 yr-1. We estimate the total number of double white dwarfs in the Galaxy as 2.5 108. In an observable sample with a limiting magnitude $V_{\rm lim} = 15$ we predict the presence of $\sim$855 white dwarfs of which $\sim$220 are close pairs. Of these 10 are double CO white dwarfs of which one has a combined mass exceeding the Chandrasekhar limit and will merge within a Hubble time.

Key words: stars: white dwarfs -- stars: statistics -- binaries: close -- binaries: evolution

Offprint request: G. Nelemans

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© ESO 2001

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