The evolution of a rapidly accreting helium white dwarf to become a low-luminosity helium star

Hideyuki Saio, C. Simon Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


We have examined the evolution of merged low-mass double white dwarfs which become low-luminosity (or high-gravity) extreme helium stars. We have approximated the merging process by the rapid accretion of matter, consisting mostly of helium, on to a helium white dwarf. After a certain mass is accumulated, a helium shell flash occurs, the radius and luminosity increase and the star becomes a yellow giant. Mass accretion is stopped artificially when the total mass reaches a pre-determined value. As the helium-burning shell moves inwards with repeating shell flashes, the effective temperature gradually increases as the star evolves towards the helium main sequence. When the mass interior to the helium-burning shell is approximately 0.25 M, the star enters a regime where it is pulsationally unstable. We have obtained radial pulsation periods for these models. These models have properties very similar to those of the pulsating helium star V652 Her. We have compared the rate of period change of the theoretical models with that observed in V652 Her, as well as with its position on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. We conclude that the merger between two helium white dwarfs can produce a star with properties remarkably similar to those observed in at least one extreme helium star, and is a viable model for their evolutionary origin. Such helium stars will evolve to become hot subdwarfs close to the helium main sequence. We also discuss the number of low-luminosity helium stars in the Galaxy expected for our evolution scenario.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-677
Number of pages7
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000 Apr 21
Externally publishedYes


  • Stars: Chemically peculiar
  • Stars: Evolution
  • Stars: Individual: V652 Her
  • Stars: Oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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