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Title: Transients from the Cataclysmic Deaths of Cataclysmic Variables
Abstract We explore the observational appearance of the merger of a low-mass star with a white dwarf (WD) binary companion. We are motivated by recent work finding that multiple tensions between the observed properties of cataclysmic variables (CVs) and standard evolution models are resolved if a large fraction of CV binaries merge as a result of unstable mass transfer. Tidal disruption of the secondary forms a geometrically thick disk around the WD, which subsequently accretes at highly super-Eddington rates. Analytic estimates and numerical hydrodynamical simulations reveal that outflows from the accretion flow unbind a large fraction ≳90% of the secondary at velocities ∼500–1000 km s −1 within days of the merger. Hydrogen recombination in the expanding ejecta powers optical transient emission lasting about a month with a luminosity ≳10 38 erg s −1 , similar to slow classical novae and luminous red novae from ordinary stellar mergers. Over longer timescales the mass accreted by the WD undergoes hydrogen shell burning, inflating the remnant into a giant of luminosity ∼300–5000 L ⊙ , effective temperature T eff ≈ 3000 K, and lifetime ∼10 4 –10 5 yr. We predict that ∼10 3 –10 4 Milky Way giants are CV merger products, more » potentially distinguishable by atypical surface abundances. We explore whether any Galactic historical slow classical novae are masquerading CV mergers by identifying four such post-nova systems with potential giant counterparts for which a CV merger origin cannot be ruled out. We address whether the historical transient CK Vul and its gaseous/dusty nebula resulted from a CV merger. « less
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Award ID(s):
1751874 2009255
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Astrophysical Journal
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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