Armagh Observatory Preprint Series No. 314

The evolution of a rapidly accreting helium white dwarf to become a low-luminosity helium star

Authors: H.Saio, C.S.Jeffery

Journal: 1999, MNRAS submitted

Abstract. We have examined the evolution of merged low-mass double white dwarfs which become low-luminosity (or high-gravity) extreme helium stars. We have approximated the merging process by the rapid accretion of matter, consisting mostly of helium, onto a helium white dwarf. After a certain mass is accumulated, a helium shell flash occurs, the radius and luminosity increase and the star becomes a yellow giant. Mass accretion is stopped artificially when the total mass reaches a pre-determined value. As the helium burning shell moves inwards with repeating shell flashes, the effective temperature gradually increases as the star evolves towards the helium main sequence. When M_r(flame)~ 0.25M_solar, the star enters a regime where it is pulsationally unstable. We have obtained radial pulsation periods for these models. These models have properties very similar to the pulsating helium star V652 Her. We have compared the rate of period change of the theoretical models with that observed in V652 Her as well as its position on the HR diagram. We conclude that the merger between two helium white dwarfs can produce a star with properties remarkably similar to those observed in at least one extreme helium star, and is a viable model for their evolutionary origin. Such helium stars will evolve to become hot subdwarfs close to the helium main sequence. We also discuss the number of low-luminosity helium stars in the Galaxy expected for our evolution scenario.