Author

Ganapathy

Date of Award

6-2008

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Dr. Kirk T. Korista

Second Advisor

Dr. Dean Halderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Clement Burns

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

White dwarfs are the remnant cores of medium and low mass stars with initial mass less than 8 times the mass of our sun. As the aging giant star expels its surface layers as planetary nebulae, the core is exposed as a white dwarf progenitor. The density of matter in white dwarfs is so high that thermal or radiation pressure no longer supports the star against the relentless pull of gravity. The white dwarf is supported by a new kind of pressure known as the degeneracy pressure, which is forced on the electrons by the laws of quantum mechanics. The matter in the white dwarf can be explained by using the Fermi gas distribution function for degenerate electrons. Using this we have found the pressure due to electron degeneracy in the non-relativistic, relativistic and ultra-relativistic regimes. Polytropic equations of state were used to calculate the mass-radius relation for white dwarfs and also to find their limiting mass, which is known as the Chandrasekhar limit.

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