The Viscous Evolution of White Dwarf Merger Remnants

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 427, Issue 1, pp. 190-203

Josiah Schwab, Ken J. Shen, Eliot Quataert, Marius Dan, Stephan Rosswog

The merger of two white dwarfs (WDs) creates a differentially rotating remnant which is unstable to magnetohydrodynamic instabilities. These instabilities can lead to viscous evolution on a time-scale short compared to the thermal evolution of the remnant. We present multi-dimensional hydrodynamic simulations of the evolution of WD merger remnants under the action of an $\alpha$-viscosity. We initialize our calculations using the output of eight WD merger simulations from Dan et al. (2011), which span a range of mass ratios and total masses. We generically find that the merger remnants evolve towards spherical states on time-scales of hours, even though a significant fraction of the mass is initially rotationally supported. The viscous evolution unbinds only a very small amount of mass $(< 10^{-5} M_\odot)$. Viscous heating causes some of the systems we study with He WD secondaries to reach conditions of nearly dynamical burning. It is thus possible that the post-merger viscous phase triggers detonation of the He envelope in some WD mergers, potentially producing a Type Ia supernova via a double detonation scenario. Our calculations provide the proper initial conditions for studying the long-term thermal evolution of WD merger remnants. This is important for understanding WD mergers as progenitors of Type Ia supernovae, neutron stars, R Coronae Borealis stars and other phenomena.