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    The inner structure of core helium burning (CHeB) stars remains uncertain due to the yet unknown nature of mixing at the boundary of their cores. Large convective cores beyond a bare Schwarzschild model are favoured both from theoretical arguments and from asteroseismological constraints. However, the exact nature of this extra mixing, and in particular the possible presence of semiconvective layers, is still debated. In this work, we approach this problem through a new avenue by performing the first full-sphere 3D hydrodynamics simulations of the interiors of CHeB stars. We use the ppmstar explicit gas dynamics code to simulate the inner 0.45$\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ of a 3 M⊙ CHeB star. Simulations are performed using different Cartesian grid resolutions (7683, 11523, and 17283) and heating rates. We use two different initial states, one based on mesas's predictive mixing scheme (which significantly extends the core beyond the Schwarzschild boundary) and one based on the convective premixing approach (which exhibits a semiconvective interface). The general behaviour of the flow in the convective core and in the stable envelope (where internal gravity waves are observed) is consistent with our recent simulations of core convection in massive main-sequence stars, and so are the various luminosity scaling relations. The semiconvective layers are dominated by strong internal gravity waves that do not produce measurable species mixing, but overshooting motions from the convective core gradually homogenize the semiconvective interface. This process can possibly completely erase the semiconvective layers, which would imply that CHeB stars do not harbour a semiconvection zone.

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  2. Abstract

    Gaia's exquisite parallax measurements allowed for the discovery and characterization of the Q branch in the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, where massive C/O white dwarfs (WDs) pause their dimming due to energy released during crystallization. Interestingly, the fraction of old stars on the Q branch is significantly higher than in the population of WDs that will become Q branch stars or that were Q branch stars in the past. From this, Cheng et al. inferred that ∼6% of WDs passing through the Q branch experience a much longer cooling delay than that of standard crystallizing WDs. Previous attempts to explain this cooling anomaly have invoked mechanisms involving supersolar initial metallicities. In this paper, we describe a novel scenario in which a standard composition WD merges with a subgiant star. The evolution of the resulting merger remnant leads to the creation of a large amount of26Mg, which, along with the existing22Ne, undergoes a distillation process that can release enough energy to explain the Q branch cooling problem without the need for atypical initial abundances. The anomalously high number of old stars on the Q branch may thus be evidence that mass transfer from subgiants to WDs leads to unstable mergers.

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    The convective dredge-up of carbon from the interiors of hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs has long been invoked to explain the presence of carbon absorption features in the spectra of cool DQ stars ($T_{\rm eff} \lt 10\,000\,$K). It has been hypothesized that this transport process is not limited to DQ white dwarfs and also operates, albeit less efficiently, in non-DQ hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs within the same temperature range. This non-DQ population is predominantly composed of DC white dwarfs, which exhibit featureless optical spectra. However, no direct observational evidence of ubiquitous carbon pollution in DC stars has thus far been uncovered. In this Letter, we analyse data from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer to reveal the photometric signature of ultraviolet carbon lines in most DC white dwarfs in the $8500\, {\rm K} \le T_{\rm eff} \le 10\,500\,$K temperature range. Our results show that the vast majority of hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs experience carbon dredge-up at some point in their evolution.

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    The Gaia colour–magnitude diagram reveals a striking separation between hydrogen-atmosphere white dwarfs and their helium-atmosphere counterparts throughout a significant portion of the white dwarf cooling track. However, pure-helium atmospheres have Gaia magnitudes that are too close to the pure-hydrogen case to explain this bifurcation. To reproduce the observed split in the cooling sequence, it has been shown that trace amounts of hydrogen and/or metals must be present in the helium-dominated atmospheres of hydrogen-deficient white dwarfs. Yet, a complete explanation of the Gaia bifurcation that takes into account known constraints on the spectral evolution of white dwarfs has thus far not been proposed. In this work, we attempt to provide such a holistic explanation by performing population synthesis simulations coupled with state-of-the-art model atmospheres and evolutionary calculations that account for element transport in the envelopes of white dwarfs. By relying on empirically grounded assumptions, these simulations successfully reproduce the bifurcation. We show that the convective dredge-up of optically undetectable traces of carbon from the deep interior is crucial to account for the observations. Neither the convective dilution/mixing of residual hydrogen nor the accretion of hydrogen or metals can be the dominant drivers of the bifurcation. Finally, we emphasize the importance of improving theoretical models for the average ionization level of carbon in warm dense helium, which governs the shape of the diffusive tail of carbon and in turn the predicted amount of dredged-up carbon.

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  5. Abstract

    When white dwarfs freeze, the plasma mixtures inside them undergo separation processes that can produce radical changes in the composition profile of the star. The abundance of neutron-rich elements, such as22Ne or56Fe, determines whether or not the first crystals are more or less dense than the surrounding fluid and thus whether they sink or float. These processes have now been studied for C–O–Ne and C–O–Fe mixtures, finding that distillation and precipitation processes are possible in white dwarfs. In this work, we calculate the phase diagram of more complicated O–Ne–Fe mixtures and make predictions for the internal structure of the separated white dwarf. There are two possible outcomes determined by a complicated interplay between the Ne abundance, the22Ne fraction, and the56Fe abundance. Either Fe distills to form an inner core because the first O–Ne solids are buoyant, or an O–Ne inner core forms and Fe accumulates in the liquid until Fe distillation begins and forms an Fe shell. In the case of an Fe shell, a Rayleigh–Taylor instability may arise and overturn the core. In either case, Fe distillation may only produce a cooling delay of order 0.1 Gyr, as these processes occur early at high white dwarf luminosities. Fe inner cores and shells may be detectable through asteroseismology and could enhance the yield of neutron-rich elements such as55Mn and58Ni in supernovae.

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    We present the first 3D hydrodynamics simulations of the excitation and propagation of internal gravity waves (IGWs) in the radiative interiors of low-mass stars on the red giant branch (RGB). We use the ppmstar explicit gas dynamics code to simulate a portion of the convective envelope and all the radiative zone down to the hydrogen-burning shell of a $1.2\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ upper RGB star. We perform simulations for different grid resolutions (7683, 15363, and 28803), a range of driving luminosities, and two different stratifications (corresponding to the bump luminosity and the tip of the RGB). Our RGB tip simulations can be directly performed at the nominal luminosity, circumventing the need for extrapolations to lower luminosities. A rich, continuous spectrum of IGWs is observed, with a significant amount of total power contained at high wavenumbers. By following the time evolution of a passive dye in the stable layers, we find that IGW mixing in our simulations is weaker than predicted by a simple analytical prescription based on shear mixing and not efficient enough to explain the missing RGB extra mixing. However, we may be underestimating the efficiency of IGW mixing given that our simulations include a limited portion of the convective envelope. Quadrupling its radial extent compared to our fiducial set-up increases convective velocities by up to a factor 2 and IGW velocities by up to a factor 4. We also report the formation of a $\sim 0.2\, H_P$ penetration zone and evidence that IGWs are excited by plumes that overshoot into the stable layers.

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    Supermassive stars are Population III stars with masses exceeding $10^4\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ that could be the progenitors of the first supermassive black holes. Their interiors are in a regime where radiation pressure dominates the equation of state. In this work, we use the explicit gas dynamics code ppmstar to simulate the hydrogen-burning core of a $10^4\, {\rm M}_{\odot }$ supermassive main-sequence star. These are the first three-dimensional hydrodynamics simulations of core convection in supermassive stars. We perform a series of 10 simulations at different heating rates and on Cartesian grids with resolutions of 7683, 11523, and 17283. We examine different properties of the convective flow, including its large-scale morphology, its velocity spectrum, and its mixing properties. We conclude that the radiation pressure-dominated nature of the interior does not noticeably affect the behaviour of convection compared to the case of core convection in a massive main-sequence star where gas pressure dominates. Our simulations also offer support for the use of mixing-length theory in one-dimensional models of supermassive stars.

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  8. ABSTRACT We demonstrate that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can detect infrared (IR) excess from the blended light spectral energy distribution of spatially unresolved terrestrial exoplanets orbiting nearby white dwarfs. We find that JWST is capable of detecting warm (habitable-zone; Teq = 287 K) Earths or super-Earths and hot (400–1000 K) Mercury analogues in the blended light spectrum around the nearest 15 isolated white dwarfs with 10 h of integration per target using MIRI’s medium-resolution spectrograph (MRS). Further, these observations constrain the presence of a CO2-dominated atmosphere on these planets. The technique is nearly insensitive to system inclination, and thus observation of even a small sample of white dwarfs could place strong limits on the occurrence rates of warm terrestrial exoplanets around white dwarfs in the solar neighbourhood. We find that JWST can also detect exceptionally cold (100–150 K) Jupiter-sized exoplanets via MIRI broad-band imaging at $\lambda = 21\, \mathrm{\mu m}$ for the 34 nearest (<13 pc) solitary white dwarfs with 2 h of integration time per target. Using IR excess to detect thermal variations with orbital phase or spectral absorption features within the atmosphere, both of which are possible with long-baseline MRS observations, would confirm candidates as actual exoplanets. Assuming an Earth-like atmospheric composition, we find that the detection of the biosignature pair O3+CH4 is possible for all habitable-zone Earths (within 6.5 pc; six white dwarf systems) or super-Earths (within 10 pc; 17 systems) orbiting white dwarfs with only 5–36 h of integration using MIRI’s low-resolution spectrometer. 
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  9. A recent analysis of the 100 pc white dwarf sample in the SDSS footprint demonstrated for the first time the existence of a well defined ultracool -- or IR-faint -- white dwarf sequence in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Here we take advantage of this discovery to enlarge the IR-faint white dwarf sample threefold. We expand our selection to the entire Pan-STARRS survey footprint as well as the Montreal White Dwarf Database 100 pc sample, and identify 37 candidates with strong flux deficits in the optical. We present follow-up Gemini optical spectroscopy of 30 of these systems, and confirm all of them as IR-faint white dwarfs. We identify an additional set of 33 objects as candidates based on their colors and magnitudes. We present a detailed model atmosphere analysis of all 70 newly identified IR-faint white dwarfs together with 35 previously known objects reported in the literature. We discuss the physics of model atmospheres and show that the key physical ingredient missing in our previous generation of model atmospheres was the high-density correction to the He-minus free-free absorption coefficient. With new model atmospheres calculated for the purpose of this analysis, we now obtain significantly higher effective temperatures and larger stellar masses for these IR-faint white dwarfs than the Teff and M values reported in previous analyses, thus solving a two decade old problem. In particular, we identify in our sample a group of ultramassive white dwarfs in the Debye cooling phase with stellar parameters never measured before. 
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    A large fraction of white dwarfs are accreting or have recently accreted rocky material from their planetary systems, thereby ‘polluting’ their atmospheres with elements heavier than helium. In recent years, the quest for mechanisms that can deliver planetesimals to the immediate vicinity of their central white dwarfs has stimulated a flurry of modelling efforts. The observed time evolution of the accretion rates of white dwarfs through their multi-Gyr lifetime is a crucial test for dynamical models of evolved planetary systems. Recent studies of cool white dwarf samples have identified a significant decrease of the mass accretion rates of cool, old white dwarfs over Gyr time-scales. Here, we revisit those results using updated white dwarf models and larger samples of old polluted H- and He-atmosphere white dwarfs. We find no compelling evidence for a strong decrease of their time-averaged mass accretion rates for cooling times between 1 and 8 Gyr. Over this period, the mass accretion rates decrease by no more than a factor of the order of 10, which is one order of magnitude smaller than the decay rate found in recent works. Our results require mechanisms that can efficiently and consistently deliver planetesimals inside the Roche radius of white dwarfs over at least 8 Gyr.

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