How to Pollute a Star in Just 2 Million Years Mark Dodici, UG '22 (2986375)
Last fall, I simulated asteroid orbits in the hopes of finding a new explanation for a curious phenomenon surrounding white dwarf stars. Here, I bring you through the basics of white dwarf pollution — what it is, where it comes from, and how Trojan asteroids can be compelled by a red giant star's radiation to contribute to it.
Using Rebound, an N-body integrator, I simulate the evolution of asteroids at the Lagrange points of a gas giant around a Sun-like star as that star goes through its red giant phase. I focus on the Yarkovsky effect, in which radiation from a star impacts the orbits of small bodies around it, studying whether or not this effect can drive asteroids away from their stable Lagrange point homes due to the increased luminosity of the red giant phase. I find that such dispersion is possible, suggesting Lagrangian asteroids as another possible source of white dwarf pollution.