Establishing Super and SubChandrasekar Limiting Mass White Dwarfs to Explain Peculiar Type La Supernovae
Abstract
A white dwarf is most likely the end stage of a low mass star like our Sun, which results when the parent star consumes all the hydrogen in its core, thus bringing fusion to a halt. It is a dense and compact object, where the inward gravitational pull is balanced by the outward pressure arising due to the motion of its constituent degenerate electrons. The theory of nonmagnetized and nonrotating white dwarfs was formulated extensively by S. Chandrasekhar in the 1930s, who also proposed a maximum possible mass for this objects, known as the Chandrasekhar limit (Chandrasekhar 1935)1.
White dwarfs are believed to be the progenitors of extremely bright explosions called type Ia supernovae (SNeIa). SNeIa are extremely important and popular astronomical events, which are hypothesized to be triggered in white dwarfs having mass close to the famous Chandrasekhar limit ∼ 1.44M⊙. The characteristic nature of the variation of luminosity with time of SNeIa is believed to be powered by the decay of 56Ni to
56Co and, finally, to 56Fe. This feature, along with the consistent mass of the exploding white dwarf, is deeply linked with their utilization as “standard candles” for cosmic distance measurement. In fact, SNeIa measurements were instrumental in establishing the accelerated nature of the current expansion of the universe (Perlmutter et al. 1999).
However, several recently observed peculiar SNeIa do not conform to this traditional explanation. Some of these SNeIa are highly overluminous, e.g. SN 2003fg, SN 2006gz, SN 2007if, SN 2009dc (Howell et al. 2006; Scalzo et al. 2010), and some others are highly underluminous, e.g. SN 1991bg, SN 1997cn, SN 1998de, SN 1999by, SN 2005bl (Filippenko et al. 1992; Taubenberger et al. 2008). The luminosity of the former group of SNeIa implies a huge Nimass (often itself superChandrasekhar), invoking highly superChandrasekhar white dwarfs, having mass 2.1 − 2.8M⊙, as their most plausible progenitors (Howell et al. 2006; Scalzo et al. 2010). On the other hand, the latter group produces as low as ∼ 0.1M⊙ of Ni (Stritzinger et al. 2006), which rather seem to favor subChandrasekhar explosion scenarios.
In this thesis, as the title suggests, we have endeavored to establish the existence of exotic, super and subChandrasekhar limiting mass white dwarfs, in order to explain the aforementioned peculiar SNeIa. This is an extremely important puzzle to solve in order to comprehensively understand the phenomena of SNeIa, which in turn is essential for the correct interpretation of the evolutionary history of the universe.
Eﬀects of magnetic field:
White dwarfs have been observed to be magnetized, having surface fields as high as 105 − 109 G (Vanlandingham et al. 2005). The interior field of a white dwarf cannot be probed directly but it is quite likely that it is several orders of magnitude higher than the surface field. The theory of weakly magnetized white dwarfs has been investigated by a few authors, however, their properties do not starkly contrast with that of the nonmagnetized cases (Ostriker & Hartwick 1968).
In our venture to find a fundamental basis behind the formation of superChandrasekhar white dwarfs, we have explored in this thesis the impact of stronger magnetic fields on the properties of white dwarfs, which has so far been overlooked. We have progressed from a simplistic to a more rigorous, selfconsistent model, by adding complexities step by step, as follows:
• spherically symmetric Newtonian model with constant (central) magnetic field
• spherically symmetric general relativistic model with varying magnetic field
• model with selfconsistent departure from spherical symmetry by general relativistic magnetohydrodynamic (GRMHD) numerical modeling.
We have started by exploiting the quantum mechanical eﬀect of Landau quantization due to a maximum allowed equipartition central field greater than a critical value Bc = 4.414 × 1013 G. To begin with, we have carried out the calculations in a Newtonian framework assuming spherically symmetric white dwarfs. The primary effect of Landau quantization is to stiﬀen the equation of state (EoS) of the underlying electron degenerate matter in the high density regime, and, hence, yield significantly superChandrasekhar white dwarfs having mass much & 2M⊙ (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2012a,b). Consequently, we have proposed a new mass limit for magnetized white dwarfs which may establish the aforementioned peculiar, overluminous SNeIa as new standard candles (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2013a,b). We have furthermore predicted possible evolutionary scenarios by which superChandrasekhar white dwarfs could form by accretion on to a commonly observed magnetized white dwarf, by invoking the phenomenon of flux freezing, subsequently ending in overluminous, superChandrasekhar SNeIa (Das et al. 2013). Before moving on to a more complex model, we have justified the assumptions in our simplistic model, in the light of various related physics issues (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2014b), and have also clarified, and, hence, removed some serious misconceptions regarding our work (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2015c).
Next, we have considered a more selfconsistent general relativistic framework. We have obtained stable solutions of magnetostatic equilibrium models for white dwarfs pertaining to various magnetic field profiles, however, still in spherical symmetry. We have showed that in this framework, a maximum stable mass as high as ∼ 3.3M⊙ can be realized (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2014a).
However, it is likely that the anisotropic eﬀect due to a strong magnetic field may cause a deformation in the spherical structure of the white dwarfs. Hence, in order to most selfconsistently take into account this departure from spherical symmetry, we have constructed equilibrium models of strongly magnetized, static, white dwarfs in a general relativistic framework, first time in the literature to the best of our knowledge. In order to achieve this, we have modified the GRMHD code XNS (Pili et al. 2014), to apply it in the context of white dwarfs. Interestingly, we have found that significantly superChandrasekhar white dwarfs, in the range ∼ 1.7 − 3.4M⊙, are obtained for many possible field configurations, namely, poloidal, toroidal and mixed (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2015a). Furthermore, due to the inclusion of deformation caused by a strong magnetic field, superChandrasekhar white dwarfs are obtained for relatively lower central magnetic field strengths (∼ 1014 G) compared to that in the simplistic model — as correctly speculated in our first work of this series (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2012a). We have also found that although the characteristic deformation induced by a purely toroidal field is prolate, the overall shape remains quasispherical — justifying our earlier spherically symmetric assumption while constructing at least some models of strongly magnetized white dwarfs (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2014a). Indeed more accurate and extensive numerical analysis seems to have validated our analytical findings.
Thus, very interestingly, our investigation has established that magnetized white dwarfs can indeed have mass that significantly exceeds the Chandrasekhar limit, irrespective of the origin of the underlying magnetic eﬀect — a discovery which is not only of theoretical importance, but also has a direct astrophysical implication in explaining the progenitors of the peculiar, overluminous, superChandrasekhar SNeIa.
Eﬀects of modified Einstein’s gravity:
A large array of models has been required to explain the peculiar, over and under
luminous SNeIa. However, it is unlikely that nature would seek mutually antagonistic scenarios to exhibit subclasses of apparently the same phenomena, i.e., triggering of thermonuclear explosions in white dwarfs. Hence, driven by the aim to establish a unification theory of SNeIa, we have invoked in the last part of this thesis a modification to Einstein’s theory of general relativity in white dwarfs.
The validity of general relativity has been tested mainly in the weak field regime, for example, through laboratory experiments and solar system tests. However, the question remains, whether general relativity requires modification in the strong gravity regime, such as, the expanding universe, the region close to a black hole and neutron star. For instance, there is evidence from observational cosmology that the universe has undergone two epochs of cosmic acceleration, the theory behind which is not yet well understood. The period of acceleration in the early universe is known as inflation, while the current accelerated expansion is often explained by invoking a mysterious dark energy. An alternative approach to explain the mysteries of inflation and dark energy is to modify the underlying gravitational theory itself, as it conveniently avoids involving any exotic form of matter. Several modified gravity theories have been proposed which are extensions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. A popular class of such theories is known as f (R) gravity (e.g. see de Felice & Tsujikawa 2010), where the Lagrangian density f of the gravitational field is an arbitrary function of the Ricci scalar R.
In the context of astrophysical compact objects, so far, modified gravity theories have been applied only to neutron stars, which are much more compact than white dwarfs, in order to test the validity of such theories in the strong field regime (e.g. Cooney et al. 2010; Arapoˇglu et al. 2011). Moreover, a general relativistic correction itself does not seem to modify the properties of a white dwarf appreciably when compared to Newtonian calculations. Our venture of exploring modified gravity in white dwarfs in this thesis, is a first in the literature to the best of our knowledge. We have exploited the advantage that white dwarfs have over neutron stars, i.e., their EoS is well established. Hence, any change in the properties of white dwarfs can be solely attributed to the modification of the underlying gravity, unlike in neutron stars, where similar eﬀects could be produced by invoking a diﬀerent EoS.
We have explored a popular, yet simple, model of f (R) gravity, known as the Starobinsky model (Starobinsky 1980) or R−squared model, which was originally proposed to explain inflation. Based on this model, we have first shown that modified gravity reproduces those results which are already explained in the paradigm of general relativity (and Newtonian framework), namely, low density white dwarfs in this context. This is a very important test of the modified gravity model and is furthermore necessary to constrain the underlying model parameter. Next, depending on the magnitude and sign of a single model parameter, we have not only obtained both highly superChandrasekhar and highly subChandrasekhar limiting mass white dwarfs, but we have also established them as progenitors of the peculiar, over and underluminous SNeIa, respectively (Das & Mukhopadhyay 2015b). Thus, an eﬀectively single underlying theory unifies the two apparently disjoint subclasses of SNeIa, which have so far hugely puzzled astronomers.
To summarize, in the first part of the thesis, we have established the enormous significance of magnetic fields in white dwarfs in revealing the existence of significantly superChandrasekhar white dwarfs. These superChandrasekhar white dwarfs could be ideal progenitors of the peculiar, overluminous SNeIa, which can, hence, be used as new standard candles of cosmic distance measurements. In the latter part of the thesis, we have established the importance of a modified theory of Einstein’s gravity in revealing both highly super and highly subChandrasekhar limiting mass white dwarfs. We have furthermore demonstrated how such a theory can serve as a missing link between the peculiar, super and subChandrasekhar SNeIa. Thus, the significance of the current thesis lies in the fact that it not only questions the uniqueness of the Chandrasekhar masslimit for white dwarfs, but it also argues for the need of a modified theory of Einstein’s gravity to explain astrophysical observations.
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 Physics (PHY) [451]
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