Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA): Convective Boundaries, Element Diffusion, and Massive Star Explosions

The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, Volume 234, Issue 2, article id. 34, 50 pp.

Bill Paxton, Josiah Schwab, Evan B. Bauer, Lars Bildsten, Sergei Blinnikov, Paul Duffell, R. Farmer, Jared A. Goldberg, Pablo Marchant, Elena Sorokina, Anne Thoul, Richard H. D. Townsend, F. X. Timmes

We update the capabilities of the software instrument Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA) and enhance its ease of use and availability. Our new approach to locating convective boundaries is consistent with the physics of convection, and yields reliable values of the convective core mass during both hydrogen and helium burning phases. Stars with $M<8\,{\rm M_\odot}$ become white dwarfs and cool to the point where the electrons are degenerate and the ions are strongly coupled, a realm now available to study with MESA due to improved treatments of element diffusion, latent heat release, and blending of equations of state. Studies of the final fates of massive stars are extended in MESA by our addition of an approximate Riemann solver that captures shocks and conserves energy to high accuracy during dynamic epochs. We also introduce a 1D capability for modeling the effects of Rayleigh-Taylor instabilities that, in combination with the coupling to a public version of the STELLA radiation transfer instrument, creates new avenues for exploring Type II supernovae properties. These capabilities are exhibited with exploratory models of pair-instability supernova, pulsational pair-instability supernova, and the formation of stellar mass black holes. The applicability of MESA is now widened by the capability of importing multi-dimensional hydrodynamic models into MESA. We close by introducing software modules for handling floating point exceptions and stellar model optimization, and four new software tools -- MESAWeb, MESA-Docker, pyMESA, and -- to enhance MESA's education and research impact.