Volume 557, September 2013
|Number of page(s)||4|
|Published online||02 September 2013|
Accretion from debris disks onto white dwarfs
Fingering (thermohaline) instability and derived accretion rates
Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, IRAP, France
2 CNRS, IRAP, 14 avenue Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France
3 Facultad de Ciencias Astronomicas y Geofisicas, 20646 La plata, Argentina
4 Instituto de Astrofisica de La Plata, 20646 La plata, Argentina
Received: 4 July 2013
Accepted: 11 August 2013
Context. Recent observations of a large number of DA and DB white dwarfs show evidence of debris disks, which are the remnants of old planetary systems. The infrared excess detected with Spitzer and the lines of heavy elements observed in their atmospheres with high-resolution spectroscopy converge on the idea that planetary material accretes onto these stars. Accretion rates have been derived by several authors with the assumption of a steady state between accretion and gravitational settling. The results are unrealistically different for DA and DB white dwarfs.
Aims. When heavy matter is accreted onto stars, it induces an inverse μ-gradient that leads to fingering (thermohaline) convection. The aim of this letter is to study the impact of this specific process on the derived accretion rates in white dwarfs and on the difference between DA and DB.
Methods. We solve the diffusion equation for the accreted heavy elements with a time-dependent method. The models we use have been obtained both with the IRAP code, which computes static models, and the La Plata code, which computes evolutionary sequences. Computations with pure gravitational settling are compared with computations that include fingering convection.
Results. The most important result is that fingering convection has very important effects on DAs but is inefficient in DBs. When only gravitational settling is taken into account, the time-dependent computations lead to a steady state, as postulated by previous authors. When fingering convection is added, this steady state occurs much later.
Conclusions. The surprising difference found in the past for the accretion rates derived for DA and DB white dwarfs disappears. The derived accretion rates for DAs are increased when fingering convection is taken into account, whereas those for DBs are not modified. More precise and developed results will be given in a forthcoming paper
Key words: white dwarfs / planetary systems / accretion, accretion disks / convection / diffusion / hydrodynamics
© ESO, 2013
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