Faculty Sponsor

Todd Hillwig


Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Summer 7-29-2022


Double degenerate systems are binary systems consisting of two white dwarf stars. Many double degenerates are identified inside planetary nebulae where their physical conditions make them easier to detect and study. Planetary nebulae are made up of giant clouds of gas that glow due to the intense heat from a dying central star which ionizes the gas within the shell. We would like to determine what fraction of double degenerates are detectable using standard search methods, and how different physical parameters of the double degenerate system affect that fraction. Due to the small existing dataset for double degenerate systems, a Monte Carlo simulation code was used to create a statistically significant synthetic sample of double degenerate systems. In order to create accurate input for the Monte Carlo code, possible probability distributions for central star mass, companion star mass, age of the planetary nebulae, and orbital period had to be varied and compared to the available observational data. The resulting binary observability fraction is presented and discussed here. In addition, a brief discussion is included on how the results of this study also provide information on the occurrence of type Ia supernovae, an important class of events in our understanding the size and expansion of the Universe.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Brook Burbridge is a rising junior Astronomy and Mathematics double major with a minor in Art. Her interest in a career that involves theoretical astrophysics drove her to participate in research involving double degenerate systems within planetary nebulae. She hopes this research will aid her in getting a summer research internship at an REU program and later, into an exceptional graduate school to continue studying astrophysics.

William Bakke is a rising senior Physics major with minors in International Relations and Mathematics. Previous astrophysics work with Dr. Hrivnak and intrigue in Monte Carlo Simulations drew him to this research. He plans on going onto graduate school to study Extragalactic Astrophysics, specifically formation and evolution of galaxies.