A common origin of magnetism from planets to white dwarfs
Astrophysical Journal Letters
Institute of Physics Publishing
© 2017. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Isolated magnetic white dwarfs have field strengths ranging from kilogauss to gigagauss. However, the origin of the magnetic field has not been hitherto elucidated. Whether these fields are fossil, hence the remnants of original weak magnetic fields amplified during the course of the evolution of their progenitor stars, or are the result of binary interactions, or, finally, they are produced by other internal physical mechanisms during the cooling of the white dwarf itself, remains a mystery. At sufficiently low temperatures, white dwarfs crystallize. Upon solidification, phase separation of its main constituents, 12C and 16O, and of the impurities left by previous evolution occurs. This process leads to the formation of a Rayleigh–Taylor unstable liquid mantle on top of a solid core. This convective region, as it occurs in solar system planets like the Earth and Jupiter, can produce a dynamo able to yield magnetic fields of strengths of up to 0.1 MG, thus providing a mechanism that could explain magnetism in single white dwarfs.
This work has been supported by MINECO grants ESP2013- 47637-P, ESP2015-66134-R (J.I.), and AYA2014-59084-P (E.G.-B.), by the European Union FEDER funds, by grants 2014SGR1458 (J.I.), 2014SGR0038 (E.G.-B.) of the AGAUR, and by the CERCS program of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 836, L28