An overview of white dwarf stars
1 Département de Physique, Université de Montréal
2 CNRS, Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, IRAP
3 European Southern Observatory, Garching
4 Institut d'Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège
5 Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique, FNRS, 5 rue d'Egmont, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We present a brief summary of what is currently known about white dwarf stars, with an emphasis on their evolutionary and internal properties. As is well known, white dwarfs represent the end products of stellar evolution for the vast majority of stars and, as such, bear the signatures of past events (such as mass loss, mixing phases, loss and redistribution of angular momentum, and thermonuclear burning) that are of essential importance in the evolution of stars in general. In addition, white dwarf stars represent ideal testbeds for our understanding of matter under extreme conditions, and work on their constitutive physics (neutrino production rates, conductive and radiative opacities, interior liquid/solid equations of state, partially ionized and partially degenerate envelope equations of state, diffusion coefficients, line broadening mechanisms) is still being actively pursued. Given a set of constitutive physics, cooling white dwarfs can be used advantageously as cosmochronometers. Moreover, the field has been blessed by the existence of four distinct families of pulsating white dwarfs, each mapping a different evolutionary phase, and this allows the application of the asteroseismological method to probe and test their internal structure and evolutionary state. We set the stage for the reviews that follow on cooling white dwarfs as cosmochronometers and physics laboratories, as well as on the properties of pulsating white dwarfs and the asteroseismological results that can be inferred.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2013
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