Why is Chandrasekar Limit expressed relative to Sun?

In 1931, Chandrasekhar was able to show that there is a certain critical mass (Chandrasekhar's limit) beyond which a white dwarf cannot exist, since the electronic fluid at that point cannot support its weight no matter how compressed it is.

The core of such a star will simply collapse inward.

The critical mass, Chandrasekhar showed, is 1.4 times that of the Sun.

When I first heard this, I was totally confused. Sun is a star too. The Sun will eventually enter the Red Giant Phase, and then it will eventually become a white-dwarf.

How and why did Chandrasekar express his limit relative to Sun?

• @JamesK - thank you. corrected my description. Sep 18, 2017 at 18:35
• Note that the red giant phase of the sun will not increase its mass, only its radius. Sep 18, 2017 at 20:29
• Point of fact: In 1931 Chandrasekhar did not know what white dwarfs were made of and said the limiting mass was 0.91 solar masses. ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1931ApJ....74...81C/abstract Oct 18, 2021 at 9:20

The mass of the sun is just a unit of convenience in a astronomy. The sun's mass and luminosity, in particular, are relatively easy for us to measure precisely, and when we're talking about stars, provide a convenient scale where the numbers won't be too "astronomical" (be too high a power of $10$ to picture easily). You could derive the Chandrasekhar limit in grams, kilograms, or slugs from the relevant physics, if you wanted. The relevant equation (from the Wikipedia article) is: $$M_{\mathrm{limit}} = \frac{\omega_3^0 \sqrt{3\pi}}{2} \left(\frac{\hbar c}{G}\right)^{3/2} \frac{1}{(\mu_e m_\mathrm{H})^2},$$ where $\mu_e$ is the average molecular weight per electron (stellar composition dependent), $m_\mathrm{H}$ is the mass of hydrogen, and $\omega_3^0$ is a numerical constant that is approximately $2.018236\ldots$.

It should be noted that the Chandrasekhar limit is a limit on the mass of the final white dwarf, not of the object that will produce the white dwarf.

• +1 The first sentence, "The mass of the sun is just a unit of convenience in a astronomy." summarises it very nicely. Our Solar System is often used as a reference - Sun, Earth, Jupiter, distance from Sun to Earth (1 au) etc.
– Mick
Sep 19, 2017 at 6:29
• Obligatory request for someone to workout the Chandrasekhar limit in slugs.
– SGR
Sep 19, 2017 at 7:42
• @SGR It's just a unit conversion; wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Chandrasekhar+limit+in+slugs Sep 19, 2017 at 8:04
• @Taemyr The internet is a wonderful thing. For anyone interested: 1.9×10^29 slugs
– SGR
Sep 19, 2017 at 8:11
• Yes, it's using this Imperial Slug rather than this invertebrate slug Sep 19, 2017 at 11:49