White Dwarf Subsystems in Core-Collapsed Globular Clusters

Kyle Kremer*, Nicholas Z. Rui, Newlin C. Weatherford, Sourav Chatterjee, Giacomo Fragione, Frederic A. Rasio, Carl L. Rodriguez, Claire S. Ye

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Numerical and observational evidence suggests that massive white dwarfs dominate the innermost regions of core-collapsed globular clusters by both number and total mass. Using NGC 6397 as a test case, we constrain the features of white dwarf populations in core-collapsed clusters, both at present day and throughout their lifetimes. The dynamics of these white dwarf subsystems have a number of astrophysical implications. We demonstrate that the collapse of globular cluster cores is ultimately halted by the dynamical burning of white dwarf binaries. We predict that core-collapsed clusters in the local universe yield a white dwarf merger rate of O (10) Gpc-3, y-1, roughly 0.1%-1% of the observed Type Ia supernova rate. We show that prior to merger, inspiraling white dwarf binaries will be observable as gravitational-wave sources at millihertz and decihertz frequencies. Over 90% of these mergers have a total mass greater than the Chandrasekhar limit. We argue that the merger/collision remnants, if not destroyed completely in an explosive transient, may be observed in core-collapsed clusters either as young neutron stars/pulsars/magnetars (in the event of accretion-induced collapse) or as young massive white dwarfs offset from the standard white dwarf cooling sequence. Finally, we show that collisions between white dwarfs and main-sequence stars, which may be detectable as bright transients, occur at a rate of O (100) Gpc-3 yr-1 in the local universe. We find that these collisions lead to depletion of blue straggler stars and main-sequence star binaries in the centers of core-collapsed clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 10 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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