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The merger rate of extremely low mass white dwarf binaries: links to the formation of AM CVn stars and underluminous supernovae
Brown, Warren R.; Kilic, Mukremin; Allende Prieto, Carlos; Kenyon, Scott J.
AA(Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA), AB(Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA), AC(Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, E-38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain; Departamento de Astrofísica, Universidad de La Laguna, E-38206 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain), AD(Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA)
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, Volume 411, Issue 1, pp. L31-L35. (MNRAS Homepage)
Publication Date:
Astronomy Keywords:
binaries: close, white dwarfs, Galaxy: stellar content
Abstract Copyright:
2010 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 2010 RAS
Bibliographic Code:


We study a complete, colour-selected sample of double-degenerate binary systems containing extremely low mass (ELM) <=0.25 M&sun; white dwarfs (WDs). We show, for the first time, that Milky Way disc ELM WDs have a merger rate of approximately 4 × 10-5 yr-1 due to gravitational wave radiation. The merger end product depends on the mass ratio of the binary. The ELM WD systems that undergo stable mass transfer can account for ≳3 per cent of AM Canum Venaticorum (AM CVn) stars. More importantly, the ELM WD systems that may detonate merge at a rate comparable to the estimated rate of underluminous supernovae (SNe), rare explosions estimated to produce only ˜0.2 M&sun; worth of ejecta. At least 25 per cent of our ELM WD sample belong to the old thick disc and halo components of the Milky Way. Thus, if merging ELM WD systems are the progenitors of underluminous SNe, transient surveys must find them in both elliptical and spiral galaxies. Based on observations obtained at the MMT Observatory, a joint facility of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona.
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