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An Ultramassive, Fast-Spinning White Dwarf in a Peculiar Binary System

An Ultramassive, Fast-Spinning White Dwarf in a Peculiar Binary System

Publication date: 05 September 2009

Authors: Mereghetti, S., et al.

Journal: Science
Issue: 4 September 2009
Page: 1222 - 1223
Year: 2009

Copyright: American Association for the Advancement of Science

White dwarfs typically have masses in a narrow range centered at about 0.6 solar mass (M). Only a few ultramassive white dwarfs (mass > 1.2 M) are known. Those in binary systems are of particular interest, because a small amount of accreted mass could drive them above the Chandrasekhar limit, beyond which they become gravitationally unstable. Using data from the X-ray multimirror mission (XMM)-Newton satellite, we show that the x-ray pulsator RX J0648.0-4418 is a white dwarf with mass > 1.2 M, based on dynamical measurements only. This ultramassive white dwarf in a post-common envelope binary with a hot subdwarf can reach the Chandrasekhar limit, and possibly explode as a type Ia supernova, when its helium-rich companion will transfer mass at an increased rate through Roche lobe overflow.

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