Supernovae from direct collisions of white dwarfs and the role of helium shell ignition

Models for supernovae (SNe) arising from thermonuclear explosions of white dwarfs (WDs) have been extensively studied over the last few decades, mostly focusing on the single degenerate (accretion of material of a WD) and double degenerate (WD-WD merger) scenarios. In recent years it was suggested that WD-WD direct collisions provide an additional channel for such explosions. Here we extend the studies of such explosions, and explore the role of Helium-shells in affecting the thermonuclear explosions. We study both the impact of low-mass helium ($\sim0.01$ M$_{\odot})$ shells, as well as high mass shells ($\ge0.1$ M$_{\odot}$). We find that detonation of the massive helium layers precede the detonation of the WD Carbon-Oxygen (CO) bulk during the collision and can change the explosive evolution and outcomes for the cases of high mass He-shells. In particular, the He-shell detonation propagates on the WD surface and inefficiently burns material prior to the CO detonation that later follows in the central parts of the WD. Such evolution leads to larger production of intermediate elements, producing large yields of $^{44}{\rm Ti}$ and $^{48}{\rm Cr}$ relative to the pure CO-CO WD collisions. Collisions of WDs with a low-mass He-shell do not give rise to helium detonation, but helium burning does precede the CO bulk detonation. Such collisions produce a high velocity, low-mass of ejected burned material enriched with intermediate elements, with smaller changes to the overall explosion outcomes. The various effects arising from the contribution of low/high mass He layers change the kinematics and the morphological structure of collision-induced SNe and may thereby provide unique observational signatures for such SNe, and play a role in the chemical enrichment of galaxies and the production of intermediate elements and positrons from their longer-term decay.

Comments: Final version. Accepted for publication in ApJ

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