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Published September 1, 2012 | Published + Accepted Version
Journal Article Open

Tidal Novae in Compact Binary White Dwarfs


Compact binary white dwarfs (WDs) undergoing orbital decay due to gravitational radiation can experience significant tidal heating prior to merger. In these WDs, the dominant tidal effect involves the excitation of outgoing gravity waves in the inner stellar envelope and the dissipation of these waves in the outer envelope. As the binary orbit decays, the WDs are synchronized from outside in (with the envelope synchronized first, followed by the core). We examine the deposition of tidal heat in the envelope of a carbon-oxygen WD and study how such tidal heating affects the structure and evolution of the WD. We show that significant tidal heating can occur in the star's degenerate hydrogen layer. This layer heats up faster than it cools, triggering runaway nuclear fusion. Such "tidal novae" may occur in all WD binaries containing a CO WD, at orbital periods between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, and precede the final merger by 10^5-10^6 years.

Additional Information

© 2012. The American Astronomical Society. Received 2012 June 3; accepted 2012 July 30; published 2012 August 14. We thank Bill Paxton, Lars Bildsten, and Eliot Quataert for useful discussions. J.F. acknowledges the hospitality (during fall 2011) of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB (funded by the NSF through Grant 11-Astro11F-0016) where part of the work was carried out. This work has been supported in part by NSF grant AST-1008245, NASA grants NNX12AF85G and NNX10AP19G.

Attached Files

Published - Fuller_2012_ApJL_756_L17.pdf

Accepted Version - 1206.0470


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