Partial stellar explosions - Ejected mass and minimal energy

Itai Linial*, Jim Fuller, Re'em Sari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Many massive stars appear to undergo enhanced mass-loss during late stages of their evolution. In some cases, the ejected mass likely originates from non-terminal explosive outbursts, rather than continuous winds. Here we study the dependence of the ejecta mass, mej, on the energy budget E of an explosion deep within the star, using both analytical arguments and numerical hydrodynamics simulations. Focusing on polytropic stellar models, we find that for explosion energies smaller than the stellar binding energy, the ejected mass scales as m_{\rm ej} \propto E^{\varepsilon _{\rm m}}, where ϵm = 2.4-3.0 depending on the polytropic index. The loss of energy due to shock breakout emission near the stellar edge leads to the existence of a minimal mass-shedding explosion energy, corresponding to a minimal ejecta mass. For a wide range of progenitors, from Wolf-Rayet stars to red supergiants (RSGs), we find a similar limiting energy of E_{\rm min} \approx 10^{46}\!-\!10^{47} \rm \, erg, almost independent of the stellar radius. The corresponding minimal ejecta mass varies considerably across different progenitors, ranging from ∼ } 10^{-8} \, \rm M_\odot in compact stars, up to ∼ } 10^{-2} \, \rm M_\odot in RSGs. We discuss implications of our results for pre-supernova outbursts driven by wave heating, and complications caused by the non-constant opacity and adiabatic index of realistic stars.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4266-4275
Number of pages10
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 2020 The Author(s) Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal Astronomical Society.


  • hydrodynamics
  • shock waves
  • stars: mass-loss


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