It is widely known that the onset of ion fusion in the presence of highly degenerate electrons results in nuclear runaway, and that this causes "helium flashes" and type Ia supernovae. This is of interest because our own Sun will eventually undergo a helium flash, and type Ia supernovae provide an important standard candle for cosmology. These runaway processes are well modeled, but the widely repeated conceptual explanation is physically incorrect, as can be shown from elementary gas physics. The correct explanation is just as accessible and considerably more interesting, as it exposes the remarkable quality of the energy exchange between degenerate and ideal species in thermal contact. In the process, it reveals crucial insights about the contrasting thermodynamics of degenerate versus ideal equations of state.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #234
- Pub Date:
- June 2019