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Electron conduction opacities at the transition between moderate and strong degeneracy: Uncertainties and impact on stellar models

Cassisi, S, Potekhin, AY, Salaris, M and Pietrinferni, A (2021) Electron conduction opacities at the transition between moderate and strong degeneracy: Uncertainties and impact on stellar models. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 654. ISSN 0004-6361

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Electron conduction opacities are one of the main physics inputs for the calculation of low- and intermediate-mass stellar models, and a critical question is how to bridge calculations for moderate and strong degeneracy, which are necessarily performed adopting different methods. The density-temperature regime at the boundary between moderate and strong degeneracy is in fact crucial for modelling the helium cores of red giant branch stars and the hydrogen/helium envelopes of white dwarfs. Prompted by recently published new, improved calculations of electron thermal conductivities and opacities for moderate degeneracy, we study different, physically motivated prescriptions to bridge these new computations with well established results in the regime of strong degeneracy. We find that these different prescriptions have a sizable impact on the predicted He-core masses at the He-flash (up to 0.01$M_{\odot}$ for initial total masses far from the transition to non-degenerate He-cores, and up to $\sim 0.04M_{\odot}$ for masses around the transition), the tip of the red giant branch (up to $\sim$0.1~mag) and the zero age horizontal branch luminosities (up to 0.03~dex for masses far from the transition, and up to $\sim$0.2~dex around the transition), and white dwarf cooling times (up to 40-45\% at high luminosities, and up to $\sim$25\% at low luminosities). Current empirical constraints on the tip of the red giant branch and the zero age horizontal branch absolute magnitudes do not allow yet to definitely exclude any of these alternative options for the conductive opacities. Tests against observations of slowly-cooling faint WDs in old stellar populations will need to be performed to see whether they can set some more stringent constraints on how to bridge calculations of conductive opacities for moderate and strong degeneracy.

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:
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2021 09:44
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 16:15
DOI or ID number: 10.1051/0004-6361/202141425
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15448
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