Actinide Crystallization and Fission Reactions in Cooling White Dwarf Stars

C. J. Horowitz, M. E. Caplan

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The first solids that form as a cooling white dwarf (WD) starts to crystallize are expected to be greatly enriched in actinides. This is because the melting points of WD matter scale as Z5/3 and actinides have the largest charge Z. We estimate that the solids may be so enriched in actinides that they could support a fission chain reaction. This reaction could ignite carbon burning and lead to the explosion of an isolated WD in a thermonuclear supernova (SN Ia). Our mechanism could potentially explain SN Ia with sub-Chandrasekhar ejecta masses and short delay times.

Original languageEnglish
Article number131101
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - 29 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

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© 2021 American Physical Society.


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