Post-main-sequence debris from rotation-induced YORP break-up of small bodies

Dimitri Veras*, Seth A. Jacobson, Boris T. Gänsicke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Although discs of dust and gas have been observed orbiting white dwarfs, the origin of this circumstellar matter is uncertain. We hypothesize that the in situ break-up of small bodies such as asteroids spun to fission during the giant branch phases of stellar evolution provides an important contribution to this debris. The YORP (Yarkovsky-O'Keefe-Radviesvki-Paddock) effect, which arises from radiation pressure, accelerates the spin rate of asymmetric asteroids, which can eventually shear themselves apart. This pressure is maintained and enhanced around dying stars because the outward push of an asteroid due to stellar mass loss is insignificant compared to the resulting stellar luminosity increase. Consequently, giant star radiation will destroy nearly all bodies with radii in the range 100 m-10 km that survive their parent star's main-sequence lifetime within a distance of about 7 au; smaller bodies are spun apart to their strongest, competent components. This estimate is conservative and would increase for highly asymmetric shapes or incorporation of the inward drag due to giant star stellar wind. The resulting debris field, which could extend to thousands of au, may be perturbed by remnant planetary systems to reproduce the observed dusty and gaseous discs which accompany polluted white dwarfs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2794-2799
Number of pages6
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 5 2014


  • Kuiper belt: general
  • Minor planets, asteroids: general
  • Planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • Stars: evolution
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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