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Project summary

In this project, we show that the inclusion of even a small amount of convective boundary mixing at the bottom of the convective C-burning shell leads to the stall of the C-flame propagation to the centre of a super-AGB star and, as a result, to the formation of a hybrid C/O/Ne core.
After off-center C ignition in the cores of super asymptotic giant branch (SAGB) stars, the C flame propagates all the way down to the center, trailing behind it the C-shell convective zone, and thus building a degenerate ONe core. This standard picture is obtained in stellar evolution simulations if the bottom C-shell convection boundary is assumed to be a discontinuity associated with a strict interpretation of the Schwarzschild condition for convective instability. However, this boundary is prone to additional mixing processes, such as thermohaline convection and convective boundary mixing. Using hydrodynamic simulations, we show that contrary to previous results, thermohaline mixing is too inefficient to interfere with the C-flame propagation. However, even a small amount of convective boundary mixing removes the physical conditions required for the C-flame propagation all the way to the center. This result holds even if we allow for some turbulent heat transport in the CBM region. As a result, SAGB stars build in their interiors hybrid C/O/Ne degenerate cores composed of a relatively large CO core (M(CO) ≈ 0.2 M⊙) surrounded by a thick ONe zone (ΔM(ONe) >~ 0.85 M⊙) with another thin CO layer above. If exposed by mass loss, these cores will become hybrid C/O/Ne white dwarfs. Otherwise, the ignition of C-rich material in the central core, surrounded by the thick ONe zone, may trigger a thermonuclear supernova (SN) explosion. The quenching of the C-flame may have implications for the ignition mechanism of SN Ia in the double-degenerate merger scenario.