Institute of Astronomy

An Overview of White Dwarf Stars

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Gilles Fontaine28 July 2014Across HR 2014 Talks


I will present a brief summary of what is currently known about white dwarf stars, with an emphasis on their evolutionary and internal properties. As is well known, white dwarfs represent the end products of stellar evolution for the vast majority of stars and, as such, bear the signatures of past events (such as mass loss, mixing phases, loss and redistribution of angular momentum, and thermonuclear burning) that are of essential importance in the evolution of stars in general. In addition, white dwarf stars represent unique environments for inferring the bulk composition of planetary debris that, more or less periodically, crash down on them during their long lifetimes orbiting about in the Galaxy. I will discuss the basic physics and provide an updated view of the so-called accretion-diffusion model needed to interpret the observed abundances of planetary elements in the atmospheres of white dwarfs.