REACTION RATE AND COMPOSITION DEPENDENCE OF THE STABILITY OF THERMONUCLEAR BURNING ON ACCRETING NEUTRON STARS
The stability of thermonuclear burning of hydrogen and helium accreted onto neutron stars is strongly dependent on the mass accretion rate. The burning behavior is observed to change from Type I X-ray bursts to stable burning, with oscillatory burning occurring at the transition. Simulations predict the transition at a ten times higher mass accretion rate than observed. Using numerical models we investigate how the transition depends on the hydrogen, helium, and CNO mass fractions of the
... d material, as well as on the nuclear reaction rates of triple alpha and the hot-CNO breakout reactions 15O(a,g)19Ne and 18Ne(a,p)21Na. For a lower hydrogen content the transition is at higher accretion rates. Furthermore, most experimentally allowed reaction rate variations change the transition accretion rate by at most 10%. A factor ten decrease of the 15O(a,g)19Ne rate, however, produces an increase of the transition accretion rate of 35%. None of our models reproduce the transition at the observed rate, and depending on the true 15O(a,g)19Ne reaction rate, the actual discrepancy may be substantially larger. We find that the width of the interval of accretion rates with marginally stable burning depends strongly on both composition and reaction rates. Furthermore, close to the stability transition, our models predict that X-ray bursts have extended tails where freshly accreted fuel prolongs nuclear burning.