Observational signatures of carbon-oxygen white dwarf merger remnants

Philippe Z. Yao, Eliot Quataert, Andy Goulding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many double white dwarf (WD) mergers likely do not lead to a prompt thermonuclear explosion. We investigate the prospects for observationally detecting the surviving remnants of such mergers, focusing on the case of mergers of double Carbon-Oxygen WDs. For ∼104 yr, the merger remnant is observationally similar to an extreme AGB star evolving to become a massive WD. Identifying merger remnants is thus easiest in galaxies with high-stellar masses (high WD merger rate) and low star formation rates (low birth rate of ∼6-10 M⊙ stars). Photometrically identifying merger remnants is challenging even in these cases because the merger remnants appear similar to He stars and post-outburst classical novae. We propose that the most promising technique for discovering WD merger remnants is through their unusual surrounding photoionized nebulae. We use CLOUDY photoionization calculations to investigate their unique spectral features. Merger remnants should produce weak hydrogen lines, strong carbon and oxygen recombination, and fine-structure lines in the UV, optical and IR. With narrow-band imaging or integral field spectrographs, we predict that multiple candidates are detectable in the bulge of M31, the outskirts of M87 and other nearby massive galaxies, and the Milky Way. Our models roughly reproduce the WISE nebula surrounding the Galactic WD merger candidate IRAS 00500+6713; we predict detectable [Ne vi] and [Mg vii] lines with JWST but that the mid-IR WISE emission is dominated by dust not fine-structure lines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1031-1043
Number of pages13
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • planetary nebulae: general
  • stars: evolution
  • supernovae: general
  • white dwarfs


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