Merged binary white dwarf evolution: Rapidly accreting carbon-oxygen white dwarfs and the progeny of extreme helium stars

Hideyuki Saio, C. Simon Jeffery

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107 Citations (Scopus)


We have examined the evolution of merged low-mass double white dwarfs that become luminous helium stars. We have approximated the merging process by the rapid accretion of matter, consisting mostly of helium, on to a carbon-oxygen (CO) white dwarf. After a certain mass is accumulated, a helium shell flash occurs, the radius and luminosity increase and the star becomes a yellow giant. Mass accretion is stopped artificially when the total mass reaches a pre-determined value. When the mass above the helium-burning shell becomes small enough, the star evolves blueward almost horizontally in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. The theoretical models for the merger of a 0.6-M CO white dwarf with a 0.3-M He white dwarf agree very well with the observed locations of extreme helium stars in the logTeff-logg diagram, with their observed rates of blueward evolution, and with luminosities and masses obtained from their pulsations. Together with predicted merger rates for CO + He white dwarf pairs, the evolutionary time-scales are roughly consistent with the observed numbers of extreme helium stars. Predicted surface carbon and oxygen abundances can be consistent with the observed values if carbon and oxygen produced in the helium shell during a previous asymptotic giant branch phase are assumed to exist in the helium zone of the initial CO white dwarfs. These results establish the CO + He white dwarf merger as the best, if not only, viable model for the creation of extreme helium stars and, by association, the majority of R Coronae Borealis stars.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-132
Number of pages12
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Jun 11
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries
  • Chemically peculiar - Stars
  • Close - Stars
  • Evolution - White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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