# ENERGY TRANSPORT WITHIN A STAR

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1 M. Pettini: Structure and Evolution of Stars Lecture 8 ENERGY TRANSPORT WITHIN A STAR 8.1 Introduction Up to now, we have considered how energy is generated within the interior of stars by the processes of gravitational contraction and nuclear fusion. However, for a star to shine, the heat and photons generated deep in the interior of the star have to be transferred to the surface, where they are radiated away as electromagnetic radiation. This is the subject of this lecture. Three different energy transport mechanisms can operate within the interior of a star. Radiation can transfer energy from the core to the surface, as photons are continuously absorbed and re-emitted as they interact with the plasma. Conduction, whereby heat is transferred at the microscopic level by collisions between particles. Convection is the bulk motion of cells, with hot, buoyant mass elements rising towards the surface, while cooler ones sink. The efficiency of the first two processes depends on the mean free path of, respectively, photons and particles (i.e. electrons); since the photon mean free path is normally greater than that of electrons, radiative diffusion normally dominates over conduction, although the latter becomes dominant in special physical conditions, such as those prevailing in white dwarfs. 8.2 Radiative Transport The diffusion of energy from the star s core to the surface via radiation is described by the Eddington equation for radiative equilibrium: dt = ac κρ T 3 L r 4πr 2 (8.1) where a is the radiation constant, a = 4σ/c, σ is Stefan-Botltzmann constant, κ is the opacity and the other symbols have their usual meanings. 1

2 This equation can be derived in different ways; here we are going to use a simple physical argument. Consider a small cell within the interior of a star, say with volume 1 cm 3 (see Figure 8.1). In LTE, the flux from below is F 2 σt2 4 (blackbody emission). The flux from above is F 1 σt1 4. Hence, the net flux through the element is F σ(t2 4 T1 4 ). Generalising, we have: F d σt 4. (8.2) The flux through the volume element has to be multiplied by the transparency of the layer, which is approximately (for small volume elements) 1/κρ, that is the photon mean free path (as we saw in Lecture 5). Thus the total flux through the volume element is: F 1 κρ d σt 4. (8.3) The third step in the derivation just equates the flux through a spherical surface of radius r to the total luminosity: F = L r 4πr 2 (8.4) T 1 To the surface 1 cm T 1 < T 2 T 2 To the core Figure 8.1: Blackbody emission at different distances r from the core of a star. 2

3 Combining these three equations we have: L r 1 κρ 4πr2 d σt 4 = 1 κρ 4πr2 ac 4 4 T 3 dt which can be rearranged in the form: dt 1 ac κρ T 3 (8.5) L r 4πr 2. (8.6) Eqs. 8.1 and 8.6 differ only in the factor of 3/4 which comes from a proper integration over all angles. In its 8.5 form (with a 4/3 factor on the right-hand side), the Eddington equation for radiative equilibrium gives the luminosity of star in terms of its radius, temperature, and temperature gradient when energy transport is primarily by radiative diffusion. In its 8.1 form, the equation gives the temperature gradient required to carry the entire star s luminosity by radiation. A star, or a region within a star, in which this holds is said to be in radiative equilibrium, or simply radiative. The Eddington equation is a valid description as long as the condition of LTE holds. This is clearly not the case at the stellar surface, or the photosphere, since this is the where the photons escape (and therefore the photon mean free path is no longer small compared to the distance over which dt/ is small recall our discussion at 5.2). Thus, near the stellar surface the diffusion approximation is no longer justified and one needs to solve the much more complicated equations of radiative transfer. Fortunately, the LTE and diffusion approximations are valid over almost the entire stellar interior. Sometimes eq. 8.1 is written in terms of the mass. Recalling (Figure 7.1) that dm = 4πr 2 ρ, we have: dt dm = ac κ T 3 L r (4πr 2 ) 2 (8.7) 3

4 8.2.1 The Luminosity of the Sun We can use the Eddington equation in the eq 8.5 form: L r = κρ 4πr2 ac T 3 dt to estimate the luminosity of the Sun. Integrating the above equation and using the mean temperature of the Sun (as derived in lecture 7.1) as an approximation, we have: L 1 3 µ 4πr ac T 4. L (5 10 6) 4 cm 3 s 1 erg cm 3 K 4 K 4 where µ 0.1 cm. L erg s 1 L erg s 1 For comparison, L = erg s 1 not bad! 8.3 Convection Convection is a familiar phenomenon in our everyday lives: for example, our daily weather is caused by convection in the Earth s atmosphere. The surface of the Sun (Figure 8.2) is not smooth; instead we see bright granules separated by darker intergranular lanes. We know from Doppler velocity measurements that the motion of the bright regions is mostly outwards, while in the dark intergranular regions the gas is moving downwards. The motions and temperature inhomogeneities seen in the granulation pattern are attributed to the hyogen convection zone just below the solar photosphere. The bulk motions of the gas and associated magnetic fields are thought to be the source of the mechanical energy flux that heats the solar chromosphere and corona. Referring back to eq. 8.1, it can be readily appreciated that an increase in opacity κ in a stellar atmosphere will lead to a larger temperature gradient 4

5 Figure 8.2: High resolution image of the solar photosphere, showing granulation and sunspots. dt / (if the same luminosity is to be maintained). We also saw (Figure 5.5) that as the temperature decreases from T 107 K, the opacity rises steeply with a Kramer s law hκi T 3.5. Thus, as we move from the core to the outer regions within a stellar interior, the temperature gradient is expected to become increasingly steep. A very steep temperature gradient is unstable, whether in a star or the Earth s atmosphere. This can be appreciated by considering the consequences of displacing a volume element of gas, at equilibrium radius r inside a star where T, P and ρ are the temperature, pressure and density, to a radius r +, where the ambient parameters are T + dt, P + dp and ρ + dρ (Figure 8.3). T + dt T + δt P + δp ρ + δρ P + dp ρ + dρ T P ρ T P ρ Figure 8.3: Illustration of the onset of convection. If ρ + δρ > ρ + dρ the element will sink back to its former equilibrium position at radius r. But if ρ + δρ < ρ + dρ, the element will be buoyant and convection will ensue. 5

6 In the following treatment, we make two assumptions: 1. Pressure equilibrium: the element maintains the same pressure as its surroundings, and 2. The process is adiabatic, that is there no heat exchange between the volume element and its surroundings. This is the same as saying that the timescale for removing pressure imbalance is short compared to the timescale for the establishment of thermal equilibrium. The ideal gas law: P = ρkt µm H (8.8) where µ is the mean molecular weight, m H is the mass of the hyogen atom, and the product µm H is the mean mass of the gas particles, can be written as: P = Kρ γ (8.9) where K is a constant and γ is the ratio of the specific heats: γ = C P C P Q, C V Q (8.10) C V T P T V which measure the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of a unit mass of material by a unit temperature interval at constant pressure and at constant volume respectively. Note that C P > C V (and therefore γ > 1), because at constant pressure some of the energy input goes into increasing the volume of the gas and hence more energy is required to raise the temperature by 1 K. From 8.9, we have: P ρ γ = (P + δp )(ρ + δρ) γ (8.11) What happens next depends on the difference ρ (ρ + δρ) (ρ + dρ). In the gravitational field g of the star, our rising volume element will experience a force f = g ρ. Thus, if ρ is +ve, the element will sink back to its equilibrium position at radius r but, if ρ is ve, the element will be buoyant and will rise further. This is the onset of convection. Thus, the condition for convective instability is set by the density gradient within the star: if the gradient is less than that experienced by the volume 6

8 so that or dp P = γ γ 1 d ln P d ln T ad = dt T (8.17) γ γ 1, (8.18) The Schwarzschild instability criterion then becomes: d ln P < γ d ln T star γ 1. (8.19) Sometimes, this condition is also given as: dt > γ 1 T γ P dp (8.20) obtained from 8.17 by dividing both sides by and rearranging. The above treatment emphasises the importance of the ratio of the specific heats in determining the stability of a star against convection. Recall that C P > C V. Their difference is given by: so that: C P C V = γ γ 1 = C P k µ m H µ m H k Thus, the higher the specific heats, the closer their ratio is to 1; the closer γ is to 1, the higher is the value of the adiabatic d ln P/d ln T gradient (eq. 8.18), leading to instability (eq. 8.19). Under what conditions are C P and C V high? One example is partially ionised gas, where some of the heat supplied to the system may go into further ionizing atoms instead of increasing their kinetic energy. Similarly, the presence of molecules in the mix, would increase the specific heats since some of energy supplied would go into breaking the molecular bonds Which Stars Are Convective? From the discussion above we can develop some physical understanding of when a star will develop a convective layer in its core. From eq. 8.1 we saw 8

9 that the temperature gradient is proportional to the opacity κ; thus, we expect that in layers where the opacity is very high, the temperature gradient required for radiative energy transport becomes unachievably steep. We also saw from Figure 5.5 that stellar opacities increase amatically as T decreases from 10 6 to 10 5 K; at T 10 5 K the gas is only partly ionised (at typical stellar densities); the rise in κ is produced by the availability of many bound-bound and bound-free transitions. Hand in hand with this is the increase in the specific heats, and therefore the increase in γ as the gas becomes partly, as opposed to fully, ionised. As we have discussed, this will increase the adiabatic d ln P/d ln T gradient, leading to convection. For both reasons, convection will occur in the outer layers of cool stars. In a G0 V star the convective layer is thin, while main sequence M stars are almost fully convective. Red giants and supergiants are also convective over most of their interiors. Figure 8.5 shows the onset of convection in the Sun at a radius r 0.7R. Convection is also important in stellar layers where the ratio L/4πr 2 is high (cfr. eqs. 8.1 and 8.12), that is where large luminosities are generated over small volumes. This is the situation in the cores of massive stars, given γ = 5 3 γ γ 1 = 5 2 Figure 8.5: Plots of d ln P/d ln ρ (top) and d ln P/d ln T for the Standard Solar Model. For a monoatomic gas γ = 5/3. 9

10 the steep temperature dependencies of the CNO cycle and the triple-alpha process (Lecture and 7.4.3). Figure 8.6 summarises pictorially the points made in this section. Figure 8.6: Zones of convection and radiation in main-sequence stars of various masses. The lowest mass stars are completely convective. A radiative core develops at M 0.4M, and a star is fully radiative at M 1.5M. The core region is again convective for masses M > 2M. The relative sizes of the stars shown here are approximately correct, while on the main sequence. (Figure reproduced from Bradt, H., Astrophysics Processes, CUP). 8.4 Hyostatic Equilibrium Having established the conditions under which convection will occur, it may be of interest to estimate the convective flux F c, that is the energy transported by convective cells per unit time through a unit surface area of the star. In order to do so, we need to first consider the concepts of hyostatic equilibrium and pressure scale height. 10

11 8.4.1 Hyostatic Equilibrium What stops a star from collapsing under its own gravity? The inward force of gravity must be balanced by an equal force of opposite sign; this force is provided by pressure. Considering a small cylinical element of mass dm and height located at a distance r from the centre of a spherically symmetric star (Figure 8.7), we have: F g F P,t A dm r F P,b To the centre of the star Figure 8.7: In hyostatic equilibrium F g + F P,t = F P,b. A dp = G M r dm r 2 (8.21) where: (i) M r is the mass enclosed within radius r; (ii) A is the area of the base of the cylinder; and (iii) dp is the difference in pressure (defined as force per unit area, i.e. P F p /A) between the top and bottom faces of the cylinder. Since we are considering an infinitesimally small cylinder, we can assume that the density is constant within the cylinder and express the mass in terms of the density: dm = ρ A : A dp = G M r ρ A r 2. (8.22) 11

12 Dividing both sides by the volume of the cylinder dv = A, we obtain the equation of hyostatic equilibrium: dp = G M r ρ r 2 (8.23) Since G M r /r 2 g, the local acceleration of gravity at radius r, we can also write: dp = ρ g. (8.24) In order for a star to be in hyostatic equilibrium, a negative pressure gradient must exist within the star, with the pressure being larger in the interior than near the surface Dynamical Timescale What would happen if pressure suddenly vanished and the only force acting on a star were gravity? The star would collapse on a free-fall timescale given by: 2R t ff = (8.25) g where R is the star radius (recall r = 1 2 at2 for a body experiencing acceleration a). With the above definition of g, and expressing M R in terms of the mean density ρ, M R = 4 3 πr3 ρ, we have: t ff = 2R R 2 GM R = 2R R 2 3 G 4πR 3 ρ = 3 1 2π G ρ (8.26) The last term in the equation is often referred to as the dynamical timescale: t dyn 1 Gρ (8.27) Although we have derived it by using the unrealistic example of the freefall time in a star, the dynamical timescale is an important concept often used in dimensional treatment of astrophysical situations. It describes the 12

13 time taken for changes in one part of a body to be communicated to the rest of that body (and thus t dyn t sc where t sc is the sound crossing time). Another way to think about the dynamical timescale is as the time required for a system to move from one equilibrium state to another after a sudden change. Thus, for example, an interstellar cloud cannot collapse to form stars over a timescale shorter than t dyn ; similarly, a sudden burst of star formation in a galaxy cannot take place over a timescale shorter than t dyn Pressure Scale Height Returning to the equation of hyostatic equilibrium, we define the pressure scale height H p as: 1 1 dp H p P, (8.28) so that we can express the variation in pressure with radius as: P = P 0 e r/h p. (8.29) In other words, H p is the radial distance over which the pressure ops by a factor of e. Recalling eq. 8.24, it can be seen that: H P = P ρg. (8.30) 8.5 Mixing Length Theory Let us now return to the question of the energy transport by convection. A buoyant bubble will rise until the temperature inside gradually adjusts to the (lower) temperature of its surroundings. The distance that a hot cell rises, or a cold one sinks, is referred to as the mixing length, and is normally expressed in terms of the pressure scale height: l = αh P where α 1 is a free parameter (meaning simply that we do not have a physical theory to relate l to H P ). In other words, the mixing length is of the order of the pressure scale height. 13

14 As the cell travels towards the stellar surface by one mixing length, the excess heat flow per unit volume from the bubble into its surroundings can be written as: δq = (C P δt )ρ, (8.31) where C P is the specific heat at constant pressure and ( ) dt δt = δ (8.32) is the temperature difference between the surroundings and the rising bubble. The convective flux is simply: F c = δq v c (8.33) where v c is the average speed of the convective bubble. We can obtain an expression for v c by equating the kinetic energy of the rising bubble to some fraction β (0 < β < 1) of the work per unit volume done by the buoyant force over the distance l: so that: where β is another free parameter. The net force on the bubble is just 1 2 ρ v c 2 = β f net l (8.34) ( ) 1/2 2β fnet l v c =. (8.35) ρ f net = g δρ (8.36) We can express δρ in terms of δt using the the ideal gas law δp P = δρ ρ + δt T (8.37) or, since we have pressure equilibrium between the bubble and its surroundings (i.e. δp = 0), δρ = ρ δt. (8.38) T Thus, f net = ρg T δt (8.39) 14

15 and f net = 1 ρg δt (8.40) 2 T taking the average of f net over the distance l travelled by the convective cell. Substituting 8.40 into 8.35, we have: v c 2 = β ρg ρt l δt (8.41) v c 2 = β g T αh p δt (8.42) v c 2 = β g T α P ρg δt (8.43) Using the ideal gas law: P = (ρkt )/(µm H ), we have: v c 2 = β α k µm H δt (8.44) Using 8.32 with = l = αh p = αp/ρg and proceeding as before for P, we have: v c 2 = β α k ( ) dt δ α kt 1 (8.45) µm H µm H g ( ) 2 ( ) k v c 2 = β α 2 T dt µm H g δ (8.46) Substituting 8.46 into 8.33 and using again 8.31 and 8.32, we finally obtain an expression for the convective flux: ( ) 2 ( ) 3/2 [ ( )] 3/2 k T dt F c = ρc P β 1/2 δ α 2 (8.47) µm H g What we have described here is an example of mixing-length theory. The unsatisfactory aspects of it are the fudge-factors α and β which are generally adjusted to fit observations. However, it is a significantly simpler treatment than the full 3-D (magneto-) 1 hyodynamical calculations of convective flows (see Figure 8.8). In closing, convection is a complicated topic and remains an active area of research, in particular because it can have considerable impact on a wide 1 Yes, we have not mentioned them yet, but magnetic fields are clearly important when we are dealing with bulk motions of ionised gas! 15

16 Figure 8.8: Computer simulation of convection. range of stellar properties and on stellar evolution. The lack of a good theory of convection, and of the amount of energy that can be transferred by convection, is at present an important limitation in our understanding of stellar structure. However, convection remains an important phenomenon in the interiors of stars, and not only as a way of transporting energy to the surface where it is radiated away. Convection is also important as a means of mixing between different layers of the star. Mixing happens because of convective overshooting: at the top and bottom boundaries of the convection zone, even though there is no net force, a rising or falling cell will arrive with a finite velocity and will overshoot. This was first realised in the 1980s from observations of the nuclear products at the surface of massive stars, indicative of some degree of mixing to layers above the convective core boundary. Stellar rotation also greatly facilitates mixing between different stellar layers (see Figure 8.9). The mixing of freshly synthesised elements into the outer layers of stars has important consequences for their evolution. 16

17 562 G. Meynet and A. Maeder: Stellar evolution with rotation. VIII. Fig. 1. Stream lines of meridional circulation in a rotating 20 M model with solar metallicity and v ini = 300 km s 1 at the beginning of the H burning phase (see text). The streamlines are in the meridian plane. In the upper hemisphere on the right section, matter is turning counterclockwise along the outer stream line and clockwise along the inner one. The outer sphere is the star surface and has a radius equal to 5.2 R. The inner sphere is the outer boundary of the convective core. It has a radius of 1.7 R. Figure 8.9: Stream lines of meridional circulation in a rotating 20M model with solar metallicity and v rot = 300 km s 1 at the beginning of the H-burning phase. The streamlines arein Sect. The evolution of surface abundances are examined in Sect. 7. low temperatures with the molecular opacities of Alexander in the 8, we discuss meridian the problem plane. of the origin In of the primary upper ni- counterclockwise and we show how rotation along can solve the it. The outer chemical stream nuclearline reactionand rates are clockwise also the same as along in Paperthe VII and inner are one. ( hemisphere on the right section, The matter is turningtrogen yields in He, CNO and heavy elements are discussed in Sect. 9. based on the new NACRE data basis (Angulo et al. 1999). The outer sphere is the star surface and has a radius equal to 5.2R. The inner sphere is the outer 2. Physics boundary of the models of the convective core. It has a radius of 1.7R. (Figure reproduced from Meynet & Maeder 2002, A&A, 390, 561). The initial composition is given in Table 1. The composition is enhanced in α elements. As in Paper VII, the opacities are from Iglesias & Rogers (1996), complemented at The physics of the present models at Z = 10 5 is the same as for models at Z = (Maeder & Meynet 2001). For rotation, the hyostatic effects and the surface distortion are included (Meynet & Maeder 1997), so that the T eff given here corresponds to an average orientation angle. The diffusion by shears, which is the main effect for the mixing of chemical 17

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