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We have found that at least seven hydrogen-deficient carbon (HdC) and R Coronae Borealis (RGB) stars, have 16O/18O ratios close to and in some cases less than unity, values that are orders of magnitude lower than measured in other stars (the solar value is 500). Greatly enhanced 18O is evident in every HdC and RGB we have measured that is cool enough to have detectable CO bands. The three HdC stars measured have 16O/18O < 1, lower values than any of the RGB stars. These discoveries are important clues in determining the evolutionary pathways of HdC and RGB stars, for which two models have been proposed: the double degenerate (white dwarf [WD] merger) and the final helium-shell flash (FF). No overproduction of 18O is expected in the FF scenario. We have quantitatively explored the idea that HdC and RGB stars originate in the mergers of CO- and He-WDs. The merger process is estimated to take only a few days, with accretion rates of 150 M⊙ yr-1 producing temperatures at the base of the accreted envelope of (1.2-1.9) × 108 K. Analysis of a simplified one-zone calculation shows that nucleosynthesis in the dynamically accreting material may provide a suitable environment for a significant production of 18O, leading to very low values of 16O/18O, similar to those observed. We also find qualitative agreement with observed values of 12C/ 13C and with the CNO elemental ratios. H-admixture during the accretion process from the small H-rich C/O WD envelope may play an important role in producing the observed abundances. Overall, our analysis shows that WD mergers may very well be the progenitors of O18-rich RGB and HdC stars, and that more detailed simulations and modeling are justified. © 2007. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.

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Astrophysical Journal

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