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What will happen if a white dwarf star has mass higher than the Chandrasekhar limit, i.e. 1.4 times the mass of the Sun?

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    $\begingroup$ Depends. $\zeta$ Puppis has a mass that is more than 20 times the sun's mass, so there must be something more than just the "1.4 times the mass of the sun" limit you are suggesting. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 '14 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ Changed the question to ask about a WD exceeding the Chandrasekhar limit. atprra, if you think this changes the intent of your question, please roll back the edit. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Oman Sep 29 '14 at 22:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic This question is not a duplicate (of the question indicated as such above) and should be reopened. It asks specifically what happens to a white dwarf as its mass increases. The answer would comprise of a discussion of GR instabilities, electron capture instabilities and the production of type Ia SNe. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Oct 13 '14 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @Rob Jeffries. I'm a bit tired now. Could I ask you to lobby for a reopening in our chat room? $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Oct 13 '14 at 21:54
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According to Wikipedia

The Chandrasekhar limit is the maximum mass of a stable white dwarf star. The limit was first published by Wilhelm Anderson and E. C. Stoner, and was named after Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Indian-American astrophysicist who improved upon the accuracy of the calculation in 1930, at the age of 19.

White dwarfs with masses greater than the limit undergo further gravitational collapse, evolving into a different type of stellar remnant, such as a neutron star or black hole.

Also read this nice lecture.

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  • $\begingroup$ Whilst this may be possible, the more usual outcome is likely to be a type Ia supernova and no remnant. $\endgroup$ – Rob Jeffries Sep 12 '15 at 19:57
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So let's assume you just add mass to a cold, completely degenerate white dwarf.

Now one possibility is that the added matter undergoes fusion reactions on the surface, resulting in mass loss and a Nova outburst. But let's ignore this and assume the added matter "sticks".

If we consider an ideal electron-degenerate carbon white dwarf, then its " Chandrasekhar mass" is either governed by a GR instability at finite density, or by the initiation of electron-capture reactions onto carbon nuclei. The two have very similar density thresholds $(\sim 4\times 10^{13}$ kg/m$^3$), and this sets the Chandrasekhar mass to about $1.39 M_{\odot}$.

If the WD mass exceeds this, then either it will collapse and initiate electron capture, or electron-capture will initiate a collapse, since electrons are being removed from the gas.

The final outcome will probably be a type Ia supernova, where the density and temperature in the collapsing WD become high enough to ignite carbon fusion. Because the material is degenerate and degeneracy pressure does not depend on temperature, the reactions can "runaway", detonating the entire star.

An alternative idea is that electron capture proceeds so rapidly that there is insufficient time for enough energy to be liberated by carbon fusion to blow the star part (e.g. Metzger et al. 2009). The outcome then will most likely be an "underpowered" supernova that leaves behind a neutron star remnant.

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Above the Chandrashekhar limit you would obtain a neutron star: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tolman%E2%80%93Oppenheimer%E2%80%93Volkoff_limit

Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrasekhar_limit

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  • $\begingroup$ Explain $\zeta$ puppis then. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 '14 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Zeta Puppis is an extreme blue supergiant, one of the most luminous stars in the Milky Way. That is a star with 22.5 solar masses.. not a white dwarf or a neutron star but a type O star. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Sep 29 '14 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ I know what it is, but your answer says that anything above the Chandrasekhar limit would make a neutron star which is demonstrably false. The question also says nothing of white dwarfs or neutron stars or anything, it just says "a body." $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 '14 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyle: if you are not satisfied with this reasoning, you might also want to change the wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandrasekhar_limit $\endgroup$ – Jasper Sep 29 '14 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ My issue is with your false statement; you claim that any object with a mass above the Chandrasekhar limit would become a neutron star, this is observably false. The Wikipedia article covers some details that are necessary for your answer to be worth anything (and your comments touch upon the details). $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Sep 29 '14 at 18:54

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