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  1. Abstract

    Regular, automated testing is a foundational principle of modern software development. Numerous widely used continuous integration systems exist, but they are often not suitable for the unique needs of scientific simulation software. Here we describe the testing infrastructure developed for and used by the Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA) project. This system allows the computationally demanding MESA test suite to be regularly run on a heterogeneous set of computers and aggregates and displays the testing results in a form that allows for the rapid identification and diagnosis of regressions. Regularly collecting comprehensive testing data also enables longitudinal studies of the performance of the software and the properties of the models it generates.

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  2. Abstract Helium star–carbon-oxygen white dwarf (CO WD) binaries are potential single-degenerate progenitor systems of thermonuclear supernovae. Revisiting a set of binary evolution calculations using the stellar evolution code MESA , we refine our previous predictions about which systems can lead to a thermonuclear supernova and then characterize the properties of the helium star donor at the time of explosion. We convert these model properties to near-UV/optical magnitudes assuming a blackbody spectrum and support this approach using a matched stellar atmosphere model. These models will be valuable to compare with pre-explosion imaging for future supernovae, though we emphasize the observational difficulty of detecting extremely blue companions. The pre-explosion source detected in association with SN 2012Z has been interpreted as a helium star binary containing an initially ultra-massive WD in a multiday orbit. However, extending our binary models to initial CO WD masses of up to 1.2 M ⊙ , we find that these systems undergo off-center carbon ignitions and thus are not expected to produce thermonuclear supernovae. This tension suggests that, if SN 2012Z is associated with a helium star–WD binary, then the pre-explosion optical light from the system must be significantly modified by the binary environment and/or the WD does not have a carbon-rich interior composition. 
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  3. Abstract

    We update the capabilities of the open-knowledge software instrument Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA). The newauto_diffmodule implements automatic differentiation inMESA, an enabling capability that alleviates the need for hard-coded analytic expressions or finite-difference approximations. We significantly enhance the treatment of the growth and decay of convection inMESAwith a new model for time-dependent convection, which is particularly important during late-stage nuclear burning in massive stars and electron-degenerate ignition events. We strengthenMESA’s implementation of the equation of state, and we quantify continued improvements to energy accounting and solver accuracy through a discussion of different energy equation features and enhancements. To improve the modeling of stars inMESA, we describe key updates to the treatment of stellar atmospheres, molecular opacities, Compton opacities, conductive opacities, element diffusion coefficients, and nuclear reaction rates. We introduce treatments of starspots, an important consideration for low-mass stars, and modifications for superadiabatic convection in radiation-dominated regions. We describe new approaches for increasing the efficiency of calculating monochromatic opacities and radiative levitation, and for increasing the efficiency of evolving the late stages of massive stars with a new operator-split nuclear burning mode. We close by discussing major updates toMESA’s software infrastructure that enhance source code development and community engagement.

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  4. Abstract

    Stellar evolution and numerical hydrodynamics simulations depend critically on access to fast, accurate, thermodynamically consistent equations of state. We present Skye, a new equation of state for fully ionized matter. Skye includes the effects of positrons, relativity, electron degeneracy, Coulomb interactions, nonlinear mixing effects, and quantum corrections. Skye determines the point of Coulomb crystallization in a self-consistent manner, accounting for mixing and composition effects automatically. A defining feature of this equation of state is that it uses analytic free energy terms and provides thermodynamic quantities using automatic differentiation machinery. Because of this, Skye is easily extended to include new effects by simply writing new terms in the free energy. We also introduce a novelthermodynamic extrapolationscheme for extending analytic fits to the free energy beyond the range of the fitting data while preserving desirable properties like positive entropy and sound speed. We demonstrate Skye in action in theMESAstellar evolution software instrument by computing white dwarf cooling curves.

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  5. Abstract Cooling white dwarfs (WDs) can yield accurate ages when theoretical cooling models fully account for the physics of the dense plasma of WD interiors. We use MESA to investigate cooling models for a set of massive and ultramassive WDs (0.9–1.3 ) for which previous models have failed to match kinematic age indicators based on Gaia DR2. We find that the WDs in this population can be explained as C/O cores experiencing unexpectedly rapid 22 Ne sedimentation in the strongly liquid interior just prior to crystallization. We propose that this rapid sedimentation is due to the formation of solid clusters of 22 Ne in the liquid C/O background plasma. We show that these heavier solid clusters sink faster than individual 22 Ne ions and enhance the sedimentation heating rate enough to dramatically slow WD cooling. MESA models including our prescription for cluster formation and sedimentation experience cooling delays of ≈4 Gyr on the WD Q branch, alleviating tension between cooling ages and kinematic ages. This same model then predicts cooling delays coinciding with crystallization of 6 Gyr or more in lower-mass WDs (0.6–0.8 ). Such delays are compatible with, and perhaps required by, observations of WD populations in the local 100 pc WD sample and the open cluster NGC 6791. These results motivate new investigations of the physics of strongly coupled C/O/Ne plasma mixtures in the strongly liquid state near crystallization and tests through comparisons with observed WD cooling. 
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  6. Abstract The collapse of degenerate oxygen–neon cores (i.e., electron-capture supernovae or accretion-induced collapse) proceeds through a phase in which a deflagration wave (“flame”) forms at or near the center and propagates through the star. In models, the assumed speed of this flame influences whether this process leads to an explosion or to the formation of a neutron star. We calculate the laminar flame speeds in degenerate oxygen–neon mixtures with compositions motivated by detailed stellar evolution models. These mixtures include trace amounts of carbon and have a lower electron fraction than those considered in previous work. We find that trace carbon has little effect on the flame speeds, but that material with electron fraction has laminar flame speeds that are times faster than those at . We provide tabulated flame speeds and a corresponding fitting function so that the impact of this difference can be assessed via full star hydrodynamical simulations of the collapse process. 
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