Carbon-Oxygen Phase Separation in MESA White Dwarf Models

17 Mar 2023  ·  Evan B. Bauer ·

We enhance the treatment of crystallization for models of white dwarfs (WDs) in the stellar evolution software MESA by implementing carbon-oxygen (C/O) phase separation. The phase separation process during crystallization leads to transport of oxygen toward the center of WDs, resulting in a more compact structure that liberates gravitational energy as additional heating that modestly slows WD cooling timescales. We quantify this cooling delay in MESA C/O WD models over the mass range 0.5-1.0 $M_\odot$, finding delays of 0.5-0.8 Gyr for typical C/O interior profiles. MESA WD cooling timescales including this effect are generally comparable to other WD evolution models that make similar assumptions about input physics. When considering phase separation alongside $^{22}$Ne sedimentation, however, we find that both MESA and BaSTI WD cooling models predict a more modest sedimentation delay than the latest LPCODE models, and this may therefore require a re-evaluation of previously proposed solutions to some WD cooling anomalies that were based on LPCODE models of $^{22}$Ne sedimentation. Our implementation of C/O phase separation in the open-source stellar evolution software MESA provides an important tool for building realistic grids of WD cooling models, as well as a framework for expanding on our implementation to explore additional physical processes related to phase transitions and associated fluid motions in WD interiors.

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Solar and Stellar Astrophysics