Volume 542, June 2012
|Number of page(s)||6|
|Section||Stellar structure and evolution|
|Published online||15 June 2012|
Lithium production in the merging of white dwarf stars
1 Departament de Física i Enginyeria Nuclear, EUETIBUniversitat Politècnica de Catalunya, C/ Comte d’Urgell 187, 08036 Barcelona, Spain
2 Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC), Ed. Nexus-201, C/ Gran Capità 2-4, 08034 Barcelona, Spain
3 Departament de Física Aplicada, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, C/ Esteve Terrades, 5, 08860 Castelldefels, Spain
4 Facultad de Ciencias Astronómicas y Geofísicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, (1900) La Plata, Argentina
Received: 27 March 2012
Accepted: 10 May 2012
The origin of R Coronae Borealis stars has been elusive for over 200 years. Currently, two theories for their formation have been presented. These are the final flash scenario, in which a dying asymptotic giant branch star throws off its atmosphere to reveal the hydrogen poor, heavily processed material underneath, and the double degenerate scenario, in which two white dwarfs merge to produce a new star with renewed vigour. Some theories predict that the temperatures reached during the latter scenario would destroy any lithium originally present in the white dwarfs. The observed lithium content of some R Coronae Borealis stars, therefore, is often interpreted as an indication that the final flash scenario best describes their formation. In this paper, we show that lithium production can, indeed, occur in the merging of a helium white dwarf with a carbon-oxygen white dwarf if their chemical composition, particularly that of 3He, is fully considered. The production mechanism is described in detail, and the sensitivity of lithium production to the merger environment is investigated. Nucleosynthesis post-processing calculations of smoothed-particle hydrodynamics (SPH) tracer particles are performed to show that any lithium produced in these environments will be concentrated towards the cloud of material surrounding the R CrB star. Measurements of the lithium content of these clouds would, therefore, provide a valuable insight into the formation mechanism of R CrB stars.
Key words: nuclear reactions, nucleosynthesis, abundances / stars: abundances / white dwarfs / stars: evolution / stars: AGB and post-AGB
© ESO, 2012
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