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Ne22 distillation and the cooling sequence of the old metal-rich open cluster NGC 6791

Salaris, M, Blouin, S, Cassisi, S and Bedin, LR (2024) Ne22 distillation and the cooling sequence of the old metal-rich open cluster NGC 6791. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 686. ISSN 0004-6361

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Recent Monte Carlo plasma simulations to study in crystallizing carbon-oxygen (CO) white dwarfs (WDs) the phase separation of Ne22 (the most abundant metal after carbon and oxygen) have shown that, under the right conditions, a distillation process that transports Ne22 toward the WD centre is efficient and releases a considerable amount of gravitational energy that can lead to cooling delays of up to several Gyr. Here we present the first CO WD stellar evolution models that self-consistently include the effect of neon distillation, and cover the full range of CO WD masses, for a progenitor metallicity twice-solar appropriate for the old open cluster NGC 6791. The old age (about 8.5 Gyr) and high metallicity of this cluster -- hence the high neon content (about 3% by mass) in the cores of its WDs -- maximize the effect of neon distillation in the models to be compared with the observed cooling sequence. We discuss the effect of distillation on the internal chemical stratification and cooling time of the models, confirming that distillation causes cooling delays up to several Gyr, that depend in a non-monotonic way on the mass. We also show how our models produce luminosity functions (LFs) that can match the faint end of the observed WD LF in NGC 6791, for ages consistent with the range determined from a sample of cluster's eclipsing binary stars, and the main sequence turn-off. Without the inclusion of distillation the theoretical WD cooling sequences reach too faint magnitudes compared to the observations. We also propose James Webb Space Telescope observations that can independently demonstrate the efficiency of neon distillation in the interiors of NGC 6791 WDs, and help resolve the current uncertainty on the treatment of the electron conduction opacities for the hydrogen-helium envelope of the WD models.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: astro-ph.SR; astro-ph.SR
Subjects: Q Science > QB Astronomy
Q Science > QC Physics
Divisions: Astrophysics Research Institute
Publisher: EDP Sciences
Related URLs:
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2024 13:58
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2024 12:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1051/0004-6361/202449209
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/22826
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