Tuesday, July 14, 2015

White Dwarfs eat Their Compact Asteroid & Debris Disks

Formation of planetary debris discs around white dwarfs II: Shrinking extremely eccentric collisionless rings


Veras et al


The formation channel of the tens of compact debris discs which orbit white dwarfs (WDs) at a distance of one Solar radius remains unknown. Asteroids that survive the giant branch stellar phases beyond a few au are assumed to be dynamically thrust towards the WD and tidally disrupted within its Roche radius, generating extremely eccentric (e less than 0.98) rings. Here, we establish that WD radiation compresses and circularizes the orbits of super-micron to cm-sized ring constituents to entirely within the WD's Roche radius. We derive a closed algebraic formula which well-approximates the shrinking time as a function of WD cooling age, the physical properties of the star and the physical and orbital properties of the ring particles. The shrinking timescale increases with both particle size and cooling age, yielding age-dependent WD debris disc size distributions.

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