Reproducing the chemical composition of R Coronae Borealis stars from nucleosynthesis in post double degenerate white dwarf mergers

Date

2012-12-17

Authors

Menon, Athira A.

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Abstract

The R Coronae Borealis (RCB) stars are an enigmatic class of hydrogen-deficient supergiant stars, which along with the companion classes of Hydrogen-deficient Carbon (HdC) stars and Extreme Helium (EHe) stars, have been touted as being a result of mergers of low mass carbon-oxygen (CO) and helium (He) white dwarfs. Such mergers of white dwarfs are expected to be the genesis of several interesting stellar objects such as Type Ia supernovae, neutron stars and AM CVn stars, amongst others. The RCBs, HdCs and EHes are mostly near-solar mass single stars, which along with having predominantly helium atmospheres that are extremely exhausted in hydrogen and rich in carbon, are also host to some extraordinary nuclear isotopic ratios. The RCBs and EHes have 12C/13C >= 100, enhancements of up to 3 orders in fluorine compared to solar and significant amounts of s-process elements. The most outstanding characteristic of RCBs is that they, along with the HdCs, have the lowest O-isotopic ratios measured in any star in the Universe viz., 16O/18O ~ 1-10. We perform nucleosynthesis calculations with conditions found in the three-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations of CO and He WD mergers and compare the nuclear yields thus obtained with those measured in the surfaces of RCB stars. We do not find an agreement between the calculated yields and the measured ones and thus conclude that RCBs are not formed immediately after the merger of the white dwarfs. This leads us to surmise that the surface chemical composition of RCBs may be due to the result of nuclear processes occuring in a longer evolutionary period following the merger. To this end, we first construct chemical compositions of the merged white dwarfs based on the results of the hydrodynamic simulations. We then impose these compositions on homogeneous, spherically symmetric, one-dimensional stellar models and evolve these models through the giant phase of RCBs. Along with convection zones that develop in the stellar envelope, we induce a continuous envelope mixing profile that is meant to represent processes related to rotation in these merged objects. We then analyse the nuclear yields from the surface of these models and compare them with those of RCBs. Our models achieve the aforementioned striking characteristics of RCBs, viz., the low O-isotopic ratios, high C-isotopic ratios, high fluorine and s-process element enhancments. Along with these, for the first time, we have reproduced simultaneously, the range in observations of almost all the other elements measured in RCBs. Moreover, our one-dimensional models also place useful constraints on so far unexplored three-dimensional processes, thus providing directives for future studies about them.

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Keywords

DD Mergers, RCBs, close binaries, nucleosynthesis in merger, abundances, stars, AGB and post-AGB, White dwarfs

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