Models for type I X-ray bursts with improved nuclear physics

S. E. Woosley, A. Heger, A. Cumming, R. D. Hoffman, J. Pruet, T. Rauscher, J. L. Fisker, H. Schatz, B. A. Brown, M. Wiescher

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Multizone models of Type I X-ray bursts are presented that use an adaptive nuclear reaction network of unprecedented size, up to 1300 isotopes, for energy generation and include the most recent measurements and estimates of critical nuclear physics. Convection and radiation transport are included in calculations that carefully follow the changing composition in the accreted layer, both during the bursts themselves and in their ashes. Sequences of bursts, up to 15 in one case, are followed for two choices of accretion rate and metallicity, up to the point at which a limit cycle equilibrium is established. For M = 1.75 × 10 -9 M⊙ yr -1 (and M = 3.5 × 10 -10 M⊙ yr -1, for low metallicity), combined hydrogen-helium flashes occur. These bursts have light curves with slow rise times (seconds) and long tails. The rise times, shapes, and tails of these light curves are sensitive to the efficiency of nuclear burning at various waiting points along the rp-process path, and these sensitivities are explored. Each displays "compositional inertia" in that its properties are sensitive to the fact that accretion occurs onto the ashes of previous bursts that contain leftover hydrogen, helium, and CNO nuclei. This acts to reduce the sensitivity of burst properties to metallicity. Only the first anomalous burst in one model produces nuclei as heavy as A = 100. For the present choice of nuclear physics and accretion rates, other bursts and models make chiefly nuclei with A ≈ 64. The amount of carbon remaining after hydrogen-helium bursts is typically ≲ 1% by mass and decreases further as the ashes are periodically heated by subsequent bursts. For M = 3.5 × 10 -10 M⊙ yr -1 and solar metallicity, bursts are ignited in a hydrogen-free helium layer. At the base of this layer, up to 90% of the helium has already burned to carbon prior to the unstable ignition of the helium shell. These helium-ignited bursts have (1) briefer, brighter light curves with shorter tails, (2) very rapid rise times (<0.1 s), and (3) ashes lighter than the iron group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-102
Number of pages28
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Abundances
  • Nuclear reactions
  • Nucleosynthesis
  • Stars: neutron
  • X-rays: bursts

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