The Real-Time Stellar Evolution of Sakurai's Object

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Science  08 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5719, pp. 231-233
DOI: 10.1126/science.1108953

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After a hot white dwarf ceases its nuclear burning, its helium may briefly and explosively reignite. This causes the star to evolve back into a cool giant, whereupon it experiences renewed mass ejection before reheating. A reignition event of this kind was observed in 1996 in V4334 Sgr (Sakurai's object). Its temperature decrease was 100 times the predicted rate. To understand its unexpectedly fast evolution, we have developed a model in which convective mixing is strongly suppressed under the influence of flash burning. The model predicts equally rapid reheating of the star. Radio emission from freshly ionized matter now shows that this reheating has begun. Such events may be an important source of carbon and carbonaceous dust in the Galaxy.

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