Posts Tagged white dwarf

Recent Postings from white dwarf

KOI-3278: A Self-Lensing Binary Star System

Over 40% of Sun-like stars are bound in binary or multistar systems. Stellar remnants in edge-on binary systems can gravitationally magnify their companions, as predicted 40 years ago. By using data from the Kepler spacecraft, we report the detection of such a "self-lensing" system, in which a 5-hour pulse of 0.1% amplitude occurs every orbital period. The white dwarf stellar remnant and its Sun-like companion orbit one another every 88.18 days, a long period for a white dwarf-eclipsing binary. By modeling the pulse as gravitational magnification (microlensing) along with Kepler’s laws and stellar models, we constrain the mass of the white dwarf to be ~63% of the mass of our Sun. Further study of this system, and any others discovered like it, will help to constrain the physics of white dwarfs and binary star evolution.

Evaporation and Accretion of Extrasolar Comets Following White Dwarf Kicks

Several lines of observational evidence suggest that white dwarfs receive small birth kicks due to anisotropic mass loss. If other stars possess extrasolar analogues to the Solar Oort cloud, the orbits of comets in such clouds will be scrambled by white dwarf natal kicks. Although most comets will be unbound, some will be placed on low angular momentum orbits vulnerable to sublimation or tidal disruption. The dusty debris from these comets will manifest itself as a debris disk temporarily visible around newborn white dwarfs; examples of such disks may already have been seen in the Helix Nebula, and around several other young WDs. Future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope will distinguish this hypothesis from alternatives such as a dynamically excited Kuiper Belt analogue. If interpreted as indeed being cometary in origin, the observation that >15% of young WDs possess such disks provides indirect evidence that low mass gas giants (thought necessary to produce an Oort cloud) are common in the outer regions of extrasolar planetary systems. Hydrogen abundances in the atmospheres of older white dwarfs can, if sufficiently low, also be used to place constraints on the joint parameter space of natal kicks and exo-Oort cloud models.

The 2011 Outburst of Recurrent Nova T Pyx: X-ray Observations Expose the White Dwarf Mass and Ejection Dynamics

The recurrent nova T Pyx underwent its sixth historical outburst in 2011, and became the subject of an intensive multi-wavelength observational campaign. We analyze data from the Swift and Suzaku satellites to produce a detailed X-ray light curve augmented by epochs of spectral information. X-ray observations yield mostly non-detections in the first four months of outburst, but both a super-soft and hard X-ray component rise rapidly after Day 115. The super-soft X-ray component, attributable to the photosphere of the nuclear-burning white dwarf, is relatively cool (~45 eV) and implies that the white dwarf in T Pyx is significantly below the Chandrasekhar mass (~1 M_sun). The late turn-on time of the super-soft component yields a large nova ejecta mass (>~10^-5 M_sun), consistent with estimates at other wavelengths. The hard X-ray component is well fit by a ~1 keV thermal plasma, and is attributed to shocks internal to the 2011 nova ejecta. The presence of a strong oxygen line in this thermal plasma on Day 194 requires a significantly super-solar abundance of oxygen and implies that the ejecta are polluted by white dwarf material. The X-ray light curve can be explained by a dual-phase ejection, with a significant delay between the first and second ejection phases, and the second ejection finally released two months after outburst. A delayed ejection is consistent with optical and radio observations of T Pyx, but the physical mechanism producing such a delay remains a mystery.

New approaches to SNe Ia progenitors

Although Type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia) are a major tool in cosmology and play a key role in the chemical evolution of galaxies, the nature of their progenitor systems (apart from the fact that they must be close binaries containing at least one white dwarf) remains largely unknown. In the last decade, considerable efforts have been made, both observationally and theoretically, to solve this problem. Observations have, however, revealed a previously unsuspected variety of events, ranging from very underluminous outbursts to clearly overluminous ones, and spanning a range well outside the peak luminosity–decline rate of the light curve relationship, used to make calibrated candles of the SNe Ia. On the theoretical side, new explosion scenarios, such as violent mergings of pairs of white dwarfs, have been explored. We review those recent developments, emphasizing the new observational findings, but also trying to tie them to the different scenarios and explosion mechanisms proposed thus far.

Absorption non-symmetric ion-atom processes in helium-rich white dwarf atmospheres

In this work the processes of absorption charge-exchange and photo-association in He+H$^{+}$ collisions together with the process of ion HeH$^{+}$ photo-dissociation are considered as factors of influence on the opacity of the atmospheres of helium-rich white dwarfs in the far UV and EUV region. It is shown that they should be taken into account even in the cases of the atmospheres of white dwarfs with H:He =$10^{-5}$. Than, it is established that in the cases of white dwarfs with H:He $\gtrsim 10^{-4}$, particulary when H:He $\approx 10^{-3}$, these processes have to be included \emph{ab initio} in the corresponding models of their atmospheres, since in the far UV and EUV region they become dominant with respect to the known symmetric ion-atom absorption processes.

Mid-Infrared High-Contrast Imaging of HD 114174 B : An Apparent Age Discrepancy in a "Sirius-Like" Binary System

We present new observations of the faint "Sirius-like" companion discovered to orbit HD 114174. Previous attempts to image HD 114174 B at mid-infrared wavelengths using NIRC2 at Keck have resulted in a non-detection. Our new L’-band observations taken with the Large Binocular Telescope and LMIRCam recover the companion ($\Delta L$ = 10.15 $\pm$ 0.15 mag, $\rho$ = 0.675” $\pm$ 0.016”) with a high signal-to-noise ratio (10 $\sigma$). This measurement represents the deepest L’ high-contrast imaging detection at sub-arcsecond separations to date, including extrasolar planets. We confirm that HD 114174 B has near-infrared colors consistent with the interpretation of a cool white dwarf ($J-L’$ = 0.76 $\pm$ 0.19 mag, $K-L’$ = 0.64 $\pm$ 0.20). New model fits to the object’s spectral energy distribution indicate a temperature $T_{\rm eff}$ = 4260 $\pm$ 360 K, surface gravity log g = 7.94 $\pm$ 0.03, a cooling age t$_{c} \approx$ 7.8 Gyr, and mass $M$ = 0.54 $\pm$ 0.01 $M_{\odot}$. We find that the cooling age given by theoretical atmospheric models do not agree with the age of HD 114174 A derived from both isochronological and gyrochronological analyses. We speculate on possible scenarios to explain the apparent age discrepancy between the primary and secondary. HD 114174 B is a nearby benchmark white dwarf that will ultimately enable a dynamical mass estimate through continued Doppler and astrometric monitoring. Efforts to characterize its physical properties in detail will test theoretical atmospheric models and improve our understanding of white dwarf evolution, cooling, and progenitor masses.

Detection of white dwarf companions to blue stragglers in the open cluster NGC 188: direct evidence for recent mass transfer

Several possible formation pathways for blue straggler stars have been developed recently, but no one pathway has yet been observationally confirmed for a specific blue straggler. Here we report the first findings from a Hubble Space Telescope ACS/SBC far-UV photometric program to search for white dwarf companions to blue straggler stars. We find three hot and young white dwarf companions to blue straggler stars in the 7-Gyr open cluster NGC 188, indicating that mass transfer in these systems ended less than 300 Myr ago. These companions are direct and secure observational evidence that these blue straggler stars were formed through mass transfer in binary stars. Their existence in a well-studied cluster environment allows for observational constraints of both the current binary system and the progenitor binary system, mapping the entire mass transfer history.

Spectroscopy of the enigmatic short-period cataclysmic variable IR Com in an extended low state

We report the occurrence of a deep low state in the eclipsing short-period cataclysmic variable IR Com, lasting more than two years. Spectroscopy obtained in this state shows the system as a detached white dwarf plus low-mass companion, indicating that accretion has practically ceased. The spectral type of the companion is M6-7, suggesting a mass of 0.15-0.20 Msun. Its radial velocity amplitude, K_2=419.6+/-3.4 km/s, together with the inclination of 75deg – 90deg implies 0.91Msun<Mwd<1.05Msun. We estimate the white dwarf temperature to be ~15000K, and the absence of Zeeman splitting in the Balmer lines rules out magnetic fields in excess of ~5MG. While all the binary and stellar parameters are typical for a CV near the lower edge of the orbital period gap, the long-term behaviour of IR Com defies its classification, in particular the occurrence of a deep, long low state is so far unique among short-period CVs that are not strongly magnetic.

Spectroscopy of the enigmatic short-period cataclysmic variable IR Com in an extended low state [Replacement]

We report the occurrence of a deep low state in the eclipsing short-period cataclysmic variable IR Com, lasting more than two years. Spectroscopy obtained in this state shows the system as a detached white dwarf plus low-mass companion, indicating that accretion has practically ceased. The spectral type of the companion derived from the SDSS spectrum is M6-7, somewhat later than expected for the orbital period of IR Com. Its radial velocity amplitude, K_2=419.6+-3.4 km/s, together with the inclination of 75-90deg implies 0.8Msun<Mwd<1.0Msun. We estimate the white dwarf temperature to be ~15000K, and the absence of Zeeman splitting in the Balmer lines rules out magnetic fields in excess of ~5 MG. IR Com still defies an unambiguous classification, in particular the occurrence of a deep, long low state is so far unique among short-period CVs that are not strongly magnetic.

Evidence for an oscillation of the magnetic axis of the white dwarf in the polar DP Leonis

From 1979 to 2001, the magnetic axis of the white dwarf in the polar DP Leo slowly rotated by 50 deg in azimuth, possibly indicating a small asynchronism between the rotational and orbital periods of the magnetic white dwarf. We have obtained phase-resolved orbital light curves between 2009 and 2013, which show that this trend has not continued in recent years. Our data are consistent with the theoretically predicted oscillation of the magnetic axis of the white dwarf about an equilibrium orientation, which is defined by the competition between the accretion torque and the magnetostatic interaction of the primary and secondary star. Our data indicate an oscillation period of ~60 yr, an amplitude of about 25 deg, and an equilibrium orientation leading the connecting line of the two stars by about 7 deg.

A millisecond pulsar in a stellar triple system

Gravitationally bound three-body systems have been studied for hundreds of years and are common in our Galaxy. They show complex orbital interactions, which can constrain the compositions, masses, and interior structures of the bodies and test theories of gravity, if sufficiently precise measurements are available. A triple system containing a radio pulsar could provide such measurements, but the only previously known such system, B1620-26 (with a millisecond pulsar, a white dwarf, and a planetary-mass object in an orbit of several decades), shows only weak interactions. Here we report precision timing and multi-wavelength observations of PSR J0337+1715, a millisecond pulsar in a hierarchical triple system with two other stars. Strong gravitational interactions are apparent and provide the masses of the pulsar (1.4378(13) Msun, where Msun is the solar mass and the parentheses contain the uncertainty in the final decimal places) and the two white dwarf companions (0.19751(15) Msun and 0.4101(3) Msun), as well as the inclinations of the orbits (both approximately 39.2 degrees). The unexpectedly coplanar and nearly circular orbits indicate a complex and exotic evolutionary past that differs from those of known stellar systems. The gravitational field of the outer white dwarf strongly accelerates the inner binary containing the neutron star, and the system will thus provide an ideal laboratory in which to test the strong equivalence principle of general relativity.

A millisecond pulsar in a stellar triple system [Cross-Listing]

Gravitationally bound three-body systems have been studied for hundreds of years and are common in our Galaxy. They show complex orbital interactions, which can constrain the compositions, masses, and interior structures of the bodies and test theories of gravity, if sufficiently precise measurements are available. A triple system containing a radio pulsar could provide such measurements, but the only previously known such system, B1620-26 (with a millisecond pulsar, a white dwarf, and a planetary-mass object in an orbit of several decades), shows only weak interactions. Here we report precision timing and multi-wavelength observations of PSR J0337+1715, a millisecond pulsar in a hierarchical triple system with two other stars. Strong gravitational interactions are apparent and provide the masses of the pulsar (1.4378(13) Msun, where Msun is the solar mass and the parentheses contain the uncertainty in the final decimal places) and the two white dwarf companions (0.19751(15) Msun and 0.4101(3) Msun), as well as the inclinations of the orbits (both approximately 39.2 degrees). The unexpectedly coplanar and nearly circular orbits indicate a complex and exotic evolutionary past that differs from those of known stellar systems. The gravitational field of the outer white dwarf strongly accelerates the inner binary containing the neutron star, and the system will thus provide an ideal laboratory in which to test the strong equivalence principle of general relativity.

The eclipsing post-common envelope binary CSS21055: a white dwarf with a probable brown-dwarf companion

We report photometric observations of the eclipsing close binary CSS21055 (SDSS J141126+200911) that strongly suggest that the companion to the carbon-oxygen white dwarf is a brown dwarf with a mass between 0.030 and 0.074 Msun. The measured orbital period is 121.73min and the totality of the eclipse lasts 125s. If confirmed, CSS21055 would be the first detached eclipsing WD+BD binary. Spectroscopy in the eclipse could provide information about the companion’s evolutionary state and atmospheric structure.

KIC11911480: the second ZZ Ceti in the $Kepler$ field

We report the discovery of the second pulsating hydrogen-rich (DA) white dwarf in the $Kepler$ field, KIC11911480. It was selected from the $Kepler$-INT Survey (KIS) on the basis of its colours and its variable nature was confirmed using ground-based time-series photometry. An atmosphere model fit to an intermediate-resolution spectrum of KIC11911480 places this DA white dwarf close to the blue edge of the empirical boundaries of the ZZ Ceti instability strip: $T_\mathrm{eff} = 12\,160 \pm 250$ K and $\log{g} = 7.94 \pm 0.10 $. Assuming a mass-radius relation and cooling models for DA white dwarfs, the atmospheric parameters yield: M$_{\rm WD}$ = 0.57 $\pm$ 0.06 M$_\odot$. We also obtained two quarters (Q12 and Q16) of nearly uninterrupted short-cadence $Kepler$ data on this star. We detect a total of six independent pulsation modes with a $\geq$ 3$\sigma$ confidence in its amplitude power spectrum. These pulsations have periods ranging between 172.9 s and 324.5 s, typical of the hotter ZZ Ceti stars. Our preliminary asteroseismic study suggest that KIC11911480 has a rotation rate of 3.5$\pm$0.5 days.

White Dwarf based evaluation of the GALEX absolute calibration

This paper describes a revised photometric calibration of the \emph{Galaxy Evolution Explorer} magnitudes, based on measurements of DA white dwarfs. The photometric magnitudes of white dwarfs measured by \emph{GALEX} are compared to predicted magnitudes based on independent spectroscopic data (108 stars) and alternately to \emph{IUE} UV fluxes of the white dwarfs (218 stars). The results demonstrate a significant non-linear correlation and small offset between archived \emph{GALEX} fluxes and observed and predicted UV fluxes for our sample. The primary source of non-linearity may be due to detector dead time corrections for brighter stars, but it should be noted that there was a predicted non-linearity in the fainter stars as well. Sample expressions are derived which ‘correct’ observed \emph{GALEX} magnitudes to an absolute magnitude scale that is linear with respect, and directly related, to the \emph{Hubble Space Telescope} photometric scale. These corrections should be valid for stars dimmer than magnitudes 9.3 and 10.5 in the NUV and FUV respectively, and brighter than magnitude 17.5 in both

Swift X-ray and ultraviolet observations of the shortest orbital period double-degenerate system RX J0806.3+1527 (HM Cnc)

RX J0806.3+1527 (HM Cnc) is a pulsating X-ray source with 100 per cent modulation on a period of 321.5 s (5.4 min). This period reflects the orbital motion of a close binary system consisting of two interacting white dwarfs. Here we present a series of simultaneous X-ray (0.2-10 keV) and near-ultraviolet (2600 angstrom and 1928 angstrom) observations carried out with the Swift satellite. In the near-ultraviolet the counterpart of RX J0806.3+1527 was detected at flux densities consistent with a blackbody with temperature 27E+3 K. We found that the emission at 2600 angstrom is modulated at the 321.5-s period, with the peak ahead of the X-ray one by 0.28 cycles and coincident, within 0.05 cycles, with the optical. This phase-shift measurement confirms that the X-ray hot spot (located on the primary white dwarf) is at about 80-100 degrees from the direction connecting the two white dwarfs. Albeit at lower significance, the 321.5-s signature is present also in the 1928-angstrom data; at this wavelength, however, the pulse peak is better aligned with that observed at X-rays. We use the constraints on the source luminosity and on the geometry of the emitting regions to discuss the merits and limits of the main models for RX J0806.3+1527.

Swift X-ray and ultraviolet observations of the shortest orbital period double-degenerate system RX J0806.3+1527 (HM Cnc) [Replacement]

The system RX J0806.3+1527 (HM Cnc) is a pulsating X-ray source with 100 per cent modulation on a period of 321.5 s (5.4 min). This period reflects the orbital motion of a close binary consisting of two interacting white dwarfs. Here we present a series of simultaneous X-ray (0.2-10 keV) and near-ultraviolet (2600 angstrom and 1928 angstrom) observations that were carried out with the Swift satellite. In the near-ultraviolet, the counterpart of RX J0806.3+1527 was detected at flux densities consistent with a blackbody with temperature 27E+3 K. We found that the emission at 2600 angstrom is modulated at the 321.5-s period with the peak ahead of the X-ray one by 0.28 cycles and is coincident within 0.05 cycles with the optical. This phase-shift measurement confirms that the X-ray hot spot (located on the primary white dwarf) is at about 80-100 degrees from the direction that connects the two white dwarfs. Albeit at lower significance, the 321.5-s signature is present also in the 1928-angstrom data; at this wavelength, however, the pulse peak is better aligned with that observed at X-rays. We use the constraints on the source luminosity and the geometry of the emitting regions to discuss the merits and limits of the main models for RX J0806.3+1527.

Properties of the Eclipsing Double-White Dwarf Binary NLTT 11748

We present high-quality ULTRACAM photometry of the eclipsing detached double-white dwarf binary NLTT 11748. This system consists of a carbon/oxygen white dwarf and an extremely-low mass (< 0.2 Msun) helium-core white dwarf in a 5.6 hr orbit. To date such extremely-low mass WDs, which can have thin, stably-burning outer layers, have been modeled via poorly-constrained atmosphere and cooling calculations where uncertainties in the detailed structure can strongly influence the eventual fates of these systems when mass-transfer begins. With precise (individual precision ~1%) high-cadence (~2 s) multi-color photometry of multiple primary and secondary eclipses spanning >1.5 yr, we constrain the masses and radii of both objects in the NLTT 11748 system to a statistical uncertainty of a few percent. However, we find that overall uncertainty in the thickness of the envelope of the secondary carbon/oxygen white dwarf leads to a larger (~13%) systematic uncertainty in the primary He WD’s mass. Over the full range of possible envelope thicknesses we find that our primary mass (0.136-0.162 Msun) and surface gravity (log(g)=6.32-6.38; radii are 0.0423-0.0433 Rsun) constraints do not agree with previous spectroscopic determinations. We use precise eclipse timing to detect the Romer delay at 7 sigma significance, providing an additional weak constraint on the masses and limiting the eccentricity to e*cos(omega)= -4e-5 +/- 5e-5. Finally, we use multi-color data to constrain the secondary’s effective temperature (7600+/-120 K) and cooling age (1.6-1.7 Gyr).

Properties of the Eclipsing Double-White Dwarf Binary NLTT 11748 [Replacement]

We present high-quality ULTRACAM photometry of the eclipsing detached double-white dwarf binary NLTT 11748. This system consists of a carbon/oxygen white dwarf and an extremely-low mass (< 0.2 Msun) helium-core white dwarf in a 5.6 hr orbit. To date such extremely-low mass WDs, which can have thin, stably-burning outer layers, have been modeled via poorly-constrained atmosphere and cooling calculations where uncertainties in the detailed structure can strongly influence the eventual fates of these systems when mass-transfer begins. With precise (individual precision ~1%) high-cadence (~2 s) multi-color photometry of multiple primary and secondary eclipses spanning >1.5 yr, we constrain the masses and radii of both objects in the NLTT 11748 system to a statistical uncertainty of a few percent. However, we find that overall uncertainty in the thickness of the envelope of the secondary carbon/oxygen white dwarf leads to a larger (~13%) systematic uncertainty in the primary He WD’s mass. Over the full range of possible envelope thicknesses we find that our primary mass (0.136-0.162 Msun) and surface gravity (log(g)=6.32-6.38; radii are 0.0423-0.0433 Rsun) constraints do not agree with previous spectroscopic determinations. We use precise eclipse timing to detect the Romer delay at 7 sigma significance, providing an additional weak constraint on the masses and limiting the eccentricity to e*cos(omega)= -4e-5 +/- 5e-5. Finally, we use multi-color data to constrain the secondary’s effective temperature (7600+/-120 K) and cooling age (1.6-1.7 Gyr).

Timing variations in the secondary eclipse of NN Ser

The eclipsing white dwarf plus main-sequence binary NN Serpentis provides one of the most convincing cases for the existence of circumbinary planets around evolved binaries. The exquisite timing precision provided by the deep eclipse of the white dwarf has revealed complex variations in the eclipse arrival times over the last few decades. These variations have been interpreted as the influence of two planets in orbit around the binary. Recent studies have proved that such a system is dynamically stable over the current lifetime of the binary. However, the existence of such planets is by no means proven and several alternative mechanisms have been proposed that could drive similar variations. One of these is apsidal precession, which causes the eclipse times of eccentric binaries to vary sinusoidally on many year timescales. In this paper we present timing data for the secondary eclipse of NN Ser and show that they follow the same trend seen in the primary eclipse times, ruling out apsidal precession as a possible cause for the variations. This result leaves no alternatives to the planetary interpretation for the observed period variations, although we still do not consider their existence as proven. Our data limits the eccentricity of NN Ser to e<0.001. We also detect a 3.3+/-1.0 second delay in the arrival times of the secondary eclipses relative to the best planetary model. This delay is consistent with the expected 2.84+/-0.04 second Romer delay of the binary, and is the first time this effect has been detected in a white dwarf plus M dwarf system.

Wind-Driven Evolution of White Dwarf Binaries to Type Ia Supernovae

In the single degenerate scenario for the progenitors of type Ia supernovae (SNe Ia), a white dwarf rapidly accretes hydrogen- or helium-rich material from its companion star, and appears as a supersoft X-ray source. This picture has been challenged by the properties of the supersoft X-ray sources with very low-mass companions and the observations of several nearby SNe Ia. It has been pointed out that, the X-ray radiation or the wind from the accreting white dwarf can excite wind or strip mass from the companion star, thus significantly influence the mass transfer processes. In this paper we perform detailed calculations of the wind-driven evolution of white dwarf binaries. We present the parameter space for the possible SN Ia progenitors, and for the surviving companions after the SNe. The results show that the ex-companion stars of SNe Ia have characteristics more compatible with the observations, compared to those in the traditional single degenerate scenario.

Nuclear Mixing Meters for Classical Novae

Classical novae are caused by mass transfer episodes from a main sequence star onto a white dwarf via Roche lobe overflow. This material forms an accretion disk around the white dwarf. Ultimately, a fraction of this material spirals in and piles up on the white dwarf surface under electron-degenerate conditions. The subsequently occurring thermonuclear runaway reaches hundreds of megakelvin and explosively ejects matter into the interstellar medium. The exact peak temperature strongly depends on the underlying white dwarf mass, the accreted mass and metallicity, and the initial white dwarf luminosity. Observations of elemental abundance enrichments in these classical nova events imply that the ejected matter consists not only of processed solar material from the main sequence partner but also of material from the outer layers of the underlying white dwarf. This indicates that white dwarf and accreted matter mix prior to the thermonuclear runaway. The processes by which this mixing occurs require further investigation to be understood. In this work, we analyze elemental abundances ejected from hydrodynamic nova models in search of elemental abundance ratios that are useful indicators of the total amount of mixing. We identify the abundance ratios $\Sigma$CNO/H, Ne/H, Mg/H, Al/H, and Si/H as useful mixing meters in ONe novae. The impact of thermonuclear reaction rate uncertainties on the mixing meters is investigated using Monte Carlo post-processing network calculations with temperature-density evolutions of all mass zones computed by the hydrodynamic models. We find that the current uncertainties in the $^{30}$P($p$,$\gamma$)$^{31}$S rate influence the Si/H abundance ratio, but overall the mixing meters found here are robust against nuclear physics uncertainties. A comparison of our results with observations of ONe novae provides strong constraints for classical nova models.

A spectroscopic binary in the Hercules dwarf spheroidal galaxy

We present the radial velocity curve of a single-lined spectroscopic binary in the faint Hercules dwarf spheroidal (dSph) galaxy, based on 34 individual spectra covering more than two years of observations. This is the first time that orbital elements could be derived for a binary in a dSph. The system consists of a metal-poor red giant and a low-mass companion, possibly a white dwarf, with a 135-days period in a moderately eccentric ($e=0.18$) orbit. Its period and eccentricity are fully consistent with metal-poor binaries in the Galactic halo, while the projected semimajor axis is small, at $a_p$ sin$i$ = 38 R$_{sun}$. In fact, a very close orbit could inhibit the production of heavier elements through $s$-process nucleosynthesis, leading to the very low abundances of neutron-capture elements that are found in this star. We discuss the further implications for the chemical enrichment history of the Hercules dSph, but find no compelling binary scenario that could reasonably explain the full, peculiar abundance pattern of the Hercules dSph galaxy.

Magnetically powered outbursts from white dwarf mergers

Merger of a white dwarf binary creates a differentially rotating object which is expected to generate strong magnetic fields. Kinetic energy stored in differential rotation is partially dissipated in the magnetically dominated corona, which forms a hot variable outflow with ejection velocity comparable to $10^9$ cm s$^{-1}$. The outflow should carry significant mass and energy for hours to days, creating an expanding fireball with the following features. (i) The fireball is initially opaque and its internal energy is dominated by the trapped thermal radiation. The stored heat is partially converted to kinetic energy of the flow (through adiabatic cooling) and partially radiated away. (ii) Internal shocks develop in the fireball and increase its radiative output. (iii) A significant fraction of the emitted energy is in the optical band. As a result, a bright optical transient with luminosity $L\sim 10^{41}-10^{42}$ erg s$^{-1}$ and a characteristic peak duration comparable to 1 day may be expected from the merger. In contrast to classical novae or supernovae, the transient does not involve nuclear energy. The decay after its peak reflects the damping of differential rotation in the merger remnant. Such outbursts may be detected in the local Universe with current and upcoming optical surveys.

Constraining the spin-down timescale of the white-dwarf progenitors of Type Ia supernovae

Justham (2011) and DiStefano et al.\ (2011) proposed that the white-dwarf progenitor of a Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) may have to spin down before it can explode. As the white dwarf spin-down timescale is not well known theoretically, we here try to constrain it empirically (within the framework of this spin-down model) for progenitor systems that contain a giant donor and for which circumbinary material has been detected after the explosion: we obtain an upper limit of a few $10^{\rm 7} {\rm yr}$. Based on the study of Di Stefano & Kilic (2012) this means that it is too early to rule out the existence of a surviving companion in SNR 0509-67.5.

The Boundary Layer in compact binaries [Replacement]

Disk accretion onto stars leads to the formation of a Boundary Layer (BL) near the stellar surface where the disk makes contact with the star. Albeit a large fraction of the total luminosity of the system originates from this tiny layer connecting the accretion disk and the accreting object, its structure has not been fully understood yet. It is the aim of this work, to obtain more insight into the Boundary Layer around the white dwarf in compact binary systems. There are still many uncertainties concerning the extent and temperature of the BL and the rotation rate of the white dwarf. We perform numerical hydrodynamical simulations, where the problem is treated in a one-dimensional, radial approximation (slim disk). The turbulence is described by the alpha parameter viscosity. We include both cooling from the disk surfaces and radial radiation transport. The radiation energy is treated in the one-temperature approximation. For a given M_dot our results show a strong dependence on the stellar mass and rotation rate. Both, the midplane and the effective temperature rise considerably with increasing stellar mass or decreasing stellar rotation rate. Our simulations further show, that the radiation energy and pressure are indeed important in the BL. However, some models show a low optical depth in the BL, making it necessary to find a better representation for optically thin regions. The combination of a high mass and a small radius, such as in white dwarfs, can lead to an enormous energy release in the BL, provided the WD rotates slowly. Since the radial extent of BLs is typically very small (about 0.02 to 0.05 R_star), this leads to surface temperatures of a few hundred thousand Kelvin. All of our models showed subsonic infall velocities with Mach numbers of < 0.4 at most.

The Boundary Layer in compact binaries

Disk accretion onto stars leads to the formation of a Boundary Layer (BL) near the stellar surface where the disk makes contact with the star. Albeit a large fraction of the total luminosity of the system originates from this tiny layer connecting the accretion disk and the accreting object, its structure has not been fully understood yet. It is the aim of this work, to obtain more insight into the Boundary Layer around the white dwarf in compact binary systems. There are still many uncertainties concerning the extent and temperature of the BL and the rotation rate of the white dwarf. We perform numerical hydrodynamical simulations, where the problem is treated in a one-dimensional, radial approximation (slim disk). The turbulence is described by the alpha parameter viscosity. We include both cooling from the disk surfaces and radial radiation transport. The radiation energy is treated in the one-temperature approximation. For a given M_dot our results show a strong dependence on the stellar mass and rotation rate. Both, the midplane and the effective temperature rise considerably with increasing stellar mass or decreasing stellar rotation rate. Our simulations further show, that the radiation energy and pressure are indeed important in the BL. However, some models show a low optical depth in the BL, making it necessary to find a better representation for optically thin regions. The combination of a high mass and a small radius, such as in white dwarfs, can lead to an enormous energy release in the BL, provided the WD rotates slowly. Since the radial extent of BLs is typically very small (about 0.02 to 0.05 R_star), this leads to surface temperatures of a few hundred thousand Kelvin. All of our models showed subsonic infall velocities with Mach numbers of < 0.4 at most.

EL CVn-type binaries - Discovery of 17 helium white dwarf precursors in bright eclipsing binary star systems

The star 1SWASP J024743.37-251549.2 was recently discovered to be a binary star in which an A-type dwarf star eclipses the remnant of a disrupted red giant star (WASP0247-25B). The remnant is in a rarely-observed state evolving to higher effective temperatures at nearly constant luminosity prior to becoming a very low-mass white dwarf composed almost entirely of helium, i.e., it is a pre-He-WD. We have used the WASP photometric database to find 17 eclipsing binary stars with orbital periods P=0.7 to 2.2 days with similar lightcurves to 1SWASP J024743.37-251549.2. The only star in this group previously identified as a variable star is the brightest one, EL CVn, which we adopt as the prototype for this class of eclipsing binary star. The characteristic lightcurves of EL CVn-type stars show a total eclipse by an A-type dwarf star of a smaller, hotter star and a secondary eclipse of comparable depth to the primary eclipse. We have used new spectroscopic observations for 6 of these systems to confirm that the companions to the A-type stars in these binaries have very low masses (approximately 0.2 solar masses). This includes the companion to EL CVn which was not previously known to be a pre-He-WD. EL CVn-type binary star systems will enable us to study the formation of very low-mass white dwarfs in great detail, particularly in those cases where the pre-He-WD star shows non-radial pulsations similar to those recently discovered in WASP0247-25B.

Extraordinary luminous soft X-ray transient MAXI J0158-744 as an ignition of a nova on a very massive O-Ne white dwarf

We present the observation of an extraordinary luminous soft X-ray transient, MAXI J0158-744, by the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) on 2011 November 11. This transient is characterized by a soft X-ray spectrum, a short duration (1.3 x 10^3 s < \Delta T_d < 1.10 x 10^4 s), a very rapid rise (< 5.5 x 10^3 s), and a huge peak luminosity of 2 x 10^40 erg s^-1 in 0.7-7.0 keV band. With Swift observations and optical spectroscopy from the Small and Moderate Aperture Research Telescope System (SMARTS), we confirmed that the transient is a nova explosion, on a white dwarf in a binary with a Be star, located near the Small Magellanic Cloud. An extremely early turn-on of the super-soft X-ray source (SSS) phase (< 0.44 d), the short SSS phase duration of about one month, and a 0.92 keV neon emission line found in the third MAXI scan, 1296 s after the first detection, suggest that the explosion involves a small amount of ejecta and is produced on an unusually massive O-Ne white dwarf close to, or possibly over, the Chandrasekhar limit. We propose that the huge luminosity detected with MAXI was due to the fireball phase, a direct manifestation of the ignition of the thermonuclear runaway process in a nova explosion.

Comparing the White Dwarf Cooling Sequences in 47 Tuc and NGC 6397

Using deep Hubble Space Telescope imaging, color-magnitude diagrams are constructed for the globular clusters 47 Tuc and NGC 6397. As expected, because of its lower metal abundance, the main sequence of NGC 6397 lies well to the blue of that of 47 Tuc. A comparison of the white dwarf cooling sequences of the two clusters, however, demonstrates that these sequences are indistinguishable over most of their loci – a consequence of the settling out of heavy elements in the dense white dwarf atmosphere and the near equality of their masses. Lower quality data on M4 continues this trend to a third cluster whose metallicity is intermediate between these two. While the path of the white dwarfs in the color-magnitude diagram is nearly identical in 47 Tuc and NGC 6397, the numbers of white dwarfs along the path are not. This results from the relatively rapid relaxation in NGC 6397 compared to 47 Tuc and provides a cautionary note that simply counting objects in star clusters in random locations as a method of testing stellar evolutionary theory is likely dangerous unless dynamical considerations are included.

Constraints on the conservation-law/preferred-frame $\alpha_3$ parameter from orbital motions [Cross-Listing]

We analytically calculate some orbital effects induced by the Lorentz-invariance/momentum-conservation PPN parameter $\alpha_3$ in a gravitationally bound binary system made of a compact primary orbited by a test particle. We neither restrict ourselves to any particular orbital configuration nor to specific orientations of the primary’s spin axis. We use our results to put constraints on $|\alpha_3|$ in the weak-field regime by using the latest data from Solar System planetary dynamics. From the supplementary perihelion precessions determined with the EPM2011 ephemerides, we preliminarily infer $|\alpha_3|<= 9 x 10^{-11}$, which is about 3 orders of magnitude better than the previous weak-field constraints existing in the literature. The wide pulsar-white dwarf binary PSR J0407+1607 yields an upper bound on the strong-field version of the Lorentz-invariance/momentum-conservation PPN parameter ranging from 6 x $10^{-18}$ up to to 9 x $10^{-13}$ depending on the unknown values of the pulsar’s spin axis orientation and of the orbital node and inclination. We do not recur to statistical arguments involving more than one pulsar.

Constraints on the conservation-law/preferred-frame $\alpha_3$ parameter from orbital motions

We analytically calculate some orbital effects induced by the Lorentz-invariance/momentum-conservation PPN parameter $\alpha_3$ in a gravitationally bound binary system made of a compact primary orbited by a test particle. We neither restrict ourselves to any particular orbital configuration nor to specific orientations of the primary’s spin axis. We use our results to put constraints on $|\alpha_3|$ in the weak-field regime by using the latest data from Solar System planetary dynamics. From the supplementary perihelion precessions determined with the EPM2011 ephemerides, we preliminarily infer $|\alpha_3|<= 9 x 10^{-11}$, which is about 3 orders of magnitude better than the previous weak-field constraints existing in the literature. The wide pulsar-white dwarf binary PSR J0407+1607 yields an upper bound on the strong-field version of the Lorentz-invariance/momentum-conservation PPN parameter ranging from 6 x $10^{-18}$ up to to 9 x $10^{-13}$ depending on the unknown values of the pulsar’s spin axis orientation and of the orbital node and inclination. We do not recur to statistical arguments involving more than one pulsar.

High resolution simulations of the head-on collision of white dwarfs

The direct impact of white dwarfs has been suggested as a plausible channel for type Ia supernovae. In spite of their (a priori) rareness, in highly populated globular clusters and in galactic centers, where the amount of white dwarfs is considerable, the rate of violent collisions between two of them might be non-negligible. Even more, there are indications that binary white dwarf systems orbited by a third stellar-mass body have an important chance to induce a clean head-on collision. Therefore, this scenario represents a source of contamination for the supernova light-curves sample that it is used as standard candles in cosmology, and it deserves further investigation. Some groups have conducted numerical simulations of this scenario, but their results show several differences. In this paper we address some of the possible sources of these differences, presenting the results of high resolution hydrodynamical simulations jointly with a detailed nuclear post-processing of the nuclear abundances, to check the viability of white dwarf collisions to produce significant amounts of 56Ni. To that purpose, we use a 2D-axial symmetric smoothed particle hydrodynamic code to obtain a resolution considerably higher than in previous studies. In this work, we also study how the initial mass and nuclear composition affect the results. The gravitational wave emission is also calculated, as this is a unique signature of this kind of events. All calculated models produce a significant amount of 56Ni, ranging from 0.1 Msun to 1.1 Msun, compatible not only with normal-Branch type Ia supernova but also with the subluminous and super-Chandrasekhar subset. Nevertheless, the distribution mass-function of white dwarfs favors collisions among 0.6-0.7 Msun objects, leading to subluminous events.

The polluted atmosphere of the white dwarf NLTT 25792 and the diversity of circumstellar environments

We present an analysis of X-Shooter spectra of the polluted, hydrogen-rich white dwarf NLTT 25792. The spectra show strong lines of calcium (Ca H&K, near-infrared calcium triplet, and Ca I 4226 and numerous lines of iron along with magnesium and aluminum lines from which we draw the abundance pattern. Moreover, the photospheric Ca H&K lines are possibly blended with a circumstellar component shifted by -20 km/s relative to the photosphere. A comparison with a sample of four white dwarfs with similar parameters show considerable variations in their abundance patterns, particularly in the calcium to magnesium abundance ratio that varies by a factor of five within this sample. The observed variations, even after accounting for diffusion effects, imply similar variations in the putative accretion source. Also, we find that silicon and sodium are significantly underabundant in the atmosphere of NLTT 25792, a fact that may offer some clues on the nature of the accretion source.

The Neutron Star Mass Distribution

In recent years, the number of pulsars with secure mass measurements has increased to a level that allows us to probe the underlying neutron star (NS) mass distribution in detail. We critically review the radio pulsar mass measurements. For the first time, we are able to analyze a sizable population of NSs with a flexible modeling approach that can effectively accommodate a skewed underlying distribution and asymmetric measurement errors. We find that NSs that have evolved through different evolutionary paths reflect distinctive signatures through dissimilar distribution peak and mass cutoff values. NSs in double neutron star and neutron star-white dwarf systems show consistent respective peaks at 1.33 Msun and 1.55 Msun suggesting significant mass accretion (delta m~0.22 Msun) has occurred during the spin-up phase. The width of the mass distribution implied by double NS systems is indicative of a tight initial mass function while the inferred mass range is significantly wider for NSs that have gone through recycling. We find a mass cutoff at ~2.1 Msun for NSs with white dwarf companions which establishes a firm lower bound for the maximum NS mass. This rules out the majority of strange quark and soft equation of state models as viable configurations for NS matter. The lack of truncation close to the maximum mass cutoff along with the skewed nature of the inferred mass distribution both enforce the suggestion that the 2.1 Msun limit is set by evolutionary constraints rather than nuclear physics or general relativity, and the existence of rare super-massive NSs is possible.

A reconnaissance of the possible donor stars to the Kepler supernova

The identity of Type Ia supernova progenitors remains a mystery, with various lines of evidence pointing towards either accretion from a non-degenerate companion, or the rapid merger of two degenerate stars leading to the thermonuclear destruction of a white dwarf. In this paper we spectroscopically scrutinize 24 of the brightest stars residing in the central 38" x 38" of the SN 1604 (Kepler) supernova remnant to search for a possible surviving companion star. We can rule out, with high certainty, a red giant companion star – a progenitor indicated by some models of the supernova remnant. Furthermore, we find no star that exhibits properties uniquely consistent with those expected of a donor star down to L>10Lsun. While the distribution of star properties towards the remnant are consistent with unrelated stars, we identify the most promising candidates for further astrometric and spectroscopic follow-up. Such a program would either discover the donor star, or place strong limits on progenitor systems to luminosities with L<<Lsun.

SALT reveals the barium central star of the planetary nebula Hen 2-39

Classical barium stars are binary systems which consist of a late-type giant enriched in carbon and slow neutron capture (s-process) elements and an evolved white dwarf (WD) that is invisible at optical wavelengths. The youngest observed barium stars are surrounded by planetary nebulae (PNe), ejected soon after the wind accretion of polluted material when the WD was in its preceeding asymptotic giant branch (AGB) phase. Such systems are rare but powerful laboratories for studying AGB nucleosynthesis as we can measure the chemical abundances of both the polluted star and the nebula ejected by the polluter. Here we present evidence for a barium star in the PN Hen 2-39. The polluted giant is very similar to that found in WeBo 1. It is a cool (Teff=4250 +/- 150 K) giant enhanced in carbon ([C/H]=0.42 +/- 0.02 dex) and barium ([Ba/Fe]=1.50 +/- 0.25 dex). A spectral type of C-R3 C_24 nominally places Hen 2-39 amongst the peculiar early R-type carbon stars, however the barium enhancement and likely binary status mean that it is more likely to be a barium star with similar properties, rather than a true member of this class. An AGB star model of initial mass 1.8 Msun and a relatively large carbon pocket size can reproduce the observed abundances well, provided mass is transferred in a highly conservative way from the AGB star to the polluted star (e.g. wind Roche-lobe overflow). The nebula exhibits an apparent ring morphology in keeping with the other PNe around barium stars (WeBo 1 and A 70) and shows a high degree of ionization implying the presence of an invisible hot pre-WD companion that will require confirmation with UV observations. In contrast to A 70, the nebular chemical abundance pattern is consistent with non-Type I PNe, in keeping with the trend found from nebular s-process studies that non-Type I PNe are more likely to be s-process enhanced. (abridged)

Hubble Space Telescope and Ground-Based Observations of the Type Iax Supernovae SN 2005hk and SN 2008A

We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and ground-based optical and near-infrared observations of SN 2005hk and SN 2008A, typical members of the Type Iax class of supernovae (SNe). These objects are peculiar cousins of normal Type Ia SNe, with SN 2002cx as the prototype. Here we focus on late-time observations, where these objects deviate most dramatically from normal SNe Ia. Instead of the dominant nebular emission lines that are observed in normal SNe Ia at late phases (and indeed, in SNe of all other types), spectra of SNe 2005hk and 2008A show lines of Fe II, Ca II, and Fe I more than a year past maximum light, along with narrow [Fe II] and [Ca II] emission. We use spectral features to constrain the temperature and density of the ejecta, and find high densities at late times, with n_e >~ 10^9 cm^-3. Such high densities should yield enhanced cooling of the ejecta, making these objects good candidates to observe the expected "infrared catastrophe," a generic feature of SN Ia models. However, our HST photometry of SN 2008A does not match the predictions of an infrared catastrophe. Moreover, our HST observations rule out a "pure deflagration" model for these peculiar SNe, showing no evidence for unburned material at late times. We derive an upper limit of 0.14 solar masses of low-density oxygen in SN 2008A nearly 600 days after maximum light, at odds with the pure deflagration prediction. We argue that the observed late-time line velocities (shifts and widths), of order ~500 km/s, imply the explosion did not fully disrupt the white dwarf. Failed deflagration explosion models, leaving behind a bound remnant, can match some of the observed properties of SNe Iax, but no published model is consistent with all of our observations of SNe 2005hk and 2008A.

Two rings but no fellowship: LoTr 1 and its relation to planetary nebulae possessing barium central stars

LoTr 1 is a planetary nebula thought to contain an intermediate-period binary central star system (that is, a system with an orbital period, P, between 100 and, say, 1500 days). The system shows the signature of a K-type, rapidly rotating giant, and most likely constitutes an accretion-induced post-mass transfer system similar to other PNe such as LoTr 5, WeBo 1 and A70. Such systems represent rare opportunities to further the investigation into the formation of barium stars and intermediate period post-AGB systems — a formation process still far from being understood. Here, we present the first detailed analyses of both the central star system and the surrounding nebula of LoTr 1 using a combination of spectra obtained with VLT-FORS2, AAT-UCLES and NTT-EMMI, as well as SuperWASP photometry. We confirm the binary nature of the central star of LoTr 1 that consists of a K1 III giant and a hot white dwarf. The cool giant does not present any sign of s-process enhancement but is shown to have a rotation period of 6.4 days, which is a possible sign of mass accretion. LoTr 1 also presents broad double-peaked H-alpha emission lines, whose origin is still unclear. The nebula of LoTr 1 consists in two slightly elongated shells, with ages of 17,000 and 35,000 years, respectively, and with different orientations. As such, LoTr 1 present a very different nebular morphology than A70 and WeBo 1, which may be an indication of difference in the mass transfer episodes

Rapidly Fading Supernovae from Massive Star Explosions

Transient surveys have recently discovered a class of supernovae (SNe) with extremely rapidly declining light curves. These events are also often relatively faint, especially compared to Type Ia SNe. The common explanation for these events involves a weak explosion, producing a radioactive outflow with small ejected mass and kinetic energy (M ~ 0.1 Msun and E ~ 0.1 B, respectively), perhaps from the detonation of a helium shell on a white dwarf. We argue, in contrast, that these events may be Type Ib/c SNe with typical masses and energies (M ~ 3 Msun, E ~ 1 B), but which ejected very little radioactive material. In our picture, the light curve is powered by the diffusion of thermal energy deposited by the explosion shock wave, and the rapid evolution is due to recombination, which reduces the opacity and results in an "oxygen-plateau" light curve. Using a radiative transfer code, we generate synthetic spectra and light curves and demonstrate that this model can reasonably fit the observations of one event, SN 2010X. Similar models may explain the features of other rapidly evolving SNe such as SN 2002bj and SN 2005ek. SNe such as these require stripped-envelope progenitors with rather large radii (R ~ 20 Rsun), which may originate from a mass loss episode occurring just prior to explosion.

Search for TeV $\gamma$-ray emission from AE Aqr coincident with high optical and X-ray states with the MAGIC telescopes

We report on observations of the nova-like cataclysmic variable AE Aqr performed by MAGIC. The observations were part of a quasi-simultaneous multi-wavelength campaign carried out between 2012 May and June covering the optical, UV, X-ray and gamma-ray ranges. MAGIC conducted the campaign and observed the source during 12 hours. The other instruments involved were KVA, Skinakas, and Vidojevica in the optic and Swift in the X-ray. We also used optical data from the AAVSO. The goals were to: monitor the variability of the source at different wavelengths, perform gamma-ray studies coincident with the highest states of the source at the other wavelengths, and confirm or rule out previous claims of detection of very-high-energy emission from this object. We report on a search for steady TeV emission during the whole observation, for variable TeV emission coincident with the highest optical and X-ray states and periodic TeV emission at the 33.08 s rotation period (30.23 mHz rotation frequency) of the white dwarf and its first harmonic (60.46 mHz rotation frequency). These are the first observations under good weather conditions performed by the present generation of IACTs for this object.

Search for carbon stars and DZ white dwarfs in SDSS spectra survey

With more and more sky survey programs developed, overwhelming stellar spectra have been obtained and up to TB or PB level. So it is quite necessary to search for some type of objects or to build some catalogues completely for special stars using automatic methods. We used label propagation algorithm which is widely used in the area of information retrieval to search for carbon stars and cool DZ white dwarfs from the Sloan Digital Sky survey (SDSS) DR8. Performance of algorithm in searching for carbon stars stars was discussed by comparing with most complete catalogue to date and more carbon stars including 268 Carbon stars, 207 carbon star candidates and 11 composition spectrum systems consisting of a white dwarf and a carbon star were identified . In addition the algorithm was used to search for rare DZ white dwarfs and 30 new DZ white dwarfs were found, 13 of which might be around or bellow 6500K and 4 of which might be bellow 6000K.

Hubble Space Telescope and Ground-Based Observations of V455 Andromedae Post-Outburst

Hubble Space Telescope spectra obtained in 2010 and 2011, three and four years after the large amplitude dwarf nova outburst of V455 And, were combined with optical photometry and spectra to study the cooling of the white dwarf, its spin, and possible pulsation periods after the outburst. The modeling of the ultraviolet (UV) spectra show that the white dwarf temperature remains ~600 K hotter than its quiescent value at three years post outburst, and still a few hundred degrees hotter at four years post outburst. The white dwarf spin at 67.6 s and its second harmonic at 33.8 s are visible in the optical within a month of outburst and are obvious in the later UV observations in the shortest wavelength continuum and the UV emission lines, indicating an origin in high temperature regions near the accretion curtains. The UV light curves folded on the spin period show a double-humped modulation consistent with two-pole accretion. The optical photometry two years after outburst shows a group of frequencies present at shorter periods (250-263 s) than the periods ascribed to pulsation at quiescence, and these gradually shift toward the quiescent frequencies (300-360 s) as time progresses past outburst. The most surprising result is that the frequencies near this period in the UV data are only prominent in the emission lines, not the UV continuum, implying an origin away from the white dwarf photosphere. Thus, the connection of this group of periods with non-radial pulsations of the white dwarf remains elusive.

The explosion of supernova 2011fe in the frame of the core-degenerate scenario

We argue that the properties of the Type Ia supernova (SN Ia) SN 2011fe can be best explained within the frame of the core-degenerate (CD) scenario. In the CD scenario a white dwarf (WD) merges with the core of an asymptotic giant branch (AGB) star and forms a rapidly rotating WD, with a mass close to and above the critical mass for explosion. Rapid rotation prevents immediate collapse and/or explosion. Spinning down over a time of 0-10 Gyr brings the WD to explosion. A very long delayed explosion to post-crystallization phase, which lasts for ~2 Gyr leads to the formation of a highly carbon-enriched outer layer. This can account for the carbon-rich composition of the fastest-moving ejecta of SN 2011fe. In reaching the conclusion that the CD scenario best explains the observed properties of SN 2011fe we consider both its specific properties, like a very compact exploding object and carbon rich composition of the fastest-moving ejecta, and the general properties of SNe Ia.

The effect of common-envelope evolution on the visible population of post-common-envelope binaries

Context. An important ingredient in binary evolution is the common-envelope (CE) phase. Although this phase is believed to be responsible for the formation of many close binaries, the process is not well understood. Aims. We investigate the characteristics of the population of post-common-envelope binaries (PCEB). As the evolution of these binaries and their stellar components are relatively simple, this population can be directly used to constraint CE evolution. Methods. We use the binary population synthesis code SeBa to simulate the current-day population of PCEBs in the Galaxy. We incorporate the selection effects in our model that are inherent to the general PCEB population and that are specific to the SDSS survey, which enables a direct comparison for the first time between the synthetic and observed population of visible PCEBs. Results. We find that selection effects do not play a significant role on the period distribution of visible PCEBs. To explain the observed dearth of long-period systems, the {\alpha}-CE efficiency of the main evolutionary channel must be low. In the main channel, the CE is initiated by a red giant as it fills its Roche lobe in a dynamically unstable way. Other evolutionary paths cannot be constrained more. Additionally our model reproduces well the observed space density, the fraction of visible PCEBs amongst white dwarf (WD)- main sequence (MS) binaries, and the WD mass versus MS mass distribution, but overestimates the fraction of PCEBs with helium WD companions.

The virtual observatory service TheoSSA: Establishing a database of synthetic stellar flux standards. I. NLTE spectral analysis of the DA-type white dwarf G 191-B2B

H-rich, DA-type white dwarfs are particularly suited as primary standard stars for flux calibration. State-of-the-art NLTE models consider opacities of species up to trans-iron elements and provide reliable synthetic stellar-atmosphere spectra to compare with observation. We establish a database of theoretical spectra of stellar flux standards that are easily accessible via a web interface. In the framework of the Virtual Observatory, the German Astrophysical Virtual Observatory developed the registered service TheoSSA. It provides easy access to stellar spectral energy distributions (SEDs) and is intended to ingest SEDs calculated by any model-atmosphere code. In case of the DA white dwarf G 191-B2B, we demonstrate that the model reproduces not only its overall continuum shape but also the numerous metal lines exhibited in its ultraviolet spectrum. TheoSSA is in operation and contains presently a variety of SEDs for DA white dwarfs. It will be extended in the near future and can host SEDs of all primary and secondary flux standards. The spectral analysis of G 191-B2B has shown that our hydrostatic models reproduce the observations best at an effective temperature of 60000 +/- 2000K and a surface gravity of log g = 7.60 +/- 0.05. We newly identified Fe VI, Ni VI, and Zn IV lines. For the first time, we determined the photospheric zinc abundance with a logarithmic mass fraction of -4.89 (7.5 times solar). The abundances of He (upper limit), C, N, O, Al, Si, O, P, S, Fe, Ni, Ge, and Sn were precisely determined. Upper abundance limits of 10% solar were derived for Ti, Cr, Mn, and Co. The TheoSSA database of theoretical SEDs of stellar flux standards guarantees that the flux calibration of all astronomical data and cross-calibration between different instruments can be based on the same models and SEDs calculated with different model-atmosphere codes and are easy to compare.

White dwarf constraints on a varying $G$

A secular variation of $G$ modifies the structure and evolutionary time scales of white dwarfs. Using an state-of-the-art stellar evolutionary code, an up-to-date pulsational code, and a detailed population synthesis code we demonstrate that the effects of a running $G$ are obvious both in the properties of individual white dwarfs, and in those of the white dwarf populations in clusters. Specifically, we show that the white dwarf evolutionary sequences depend on both the value of $\dot G/G$, and on the value of $G$ when the white dwarf was born. We show as well that the pulsational properties of variable white dwarfs can be used to constrain $\dot G/G$. Finally, we also show that the ensemble properties of of white dwarfs in clusters can also be used to set upper bounds to $\dot G/G$. Precisely, the tightest bound — $\dot G/G \sim -1.8 10^{-12}$ yr$^{-1}$ — is obtained studying the population of the old, metal-rich, well populated, open cluster NGC 6791. Less stringent upper limits can be obtained comparing the theoretical results obtained taking into account the effects of a running $G$ with the measured rates of change of the periods of two well studied pulsating white dwarfs, G117–B15A and R548. Using these white dwarfs we obtain $\dot G/G\sim -1.8\times 10^{-10}$ yr$^{-1}$, and $\dot G/G\sim -1.3\times 10^{-10}$ yr$^{-1}$, respectively, which although less restrictive than the previous bound, can be improved measuring the rate of change of the period of massive white dwarfs.

Evolution towards and beyond accretion-induced collapse of massive white dwarfs and formation of millisecond pulsars

Millisecond pulsars (MSPs) are generally believed to be old neutron stars (NSs), formed via type Ib/c core-collapse supernovae (SNe), which have been spun up to high rotation rates via accretion from a companion star in a low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB). In an alternative formation channel, NSs are produced via the accretion-induced collapse (AIC) of a massive white dwarf (WD) in a close binary. Here we investigate binary evolution leading to AIC and examine if NSs formed in this way can subsequently be recycled to form MSPs and, if so, how they can observationally be distinguished from pulsars formed via the standard core-collapse SN channel in terms of their masses, spins, orbital periods and space velocities. Numerical calculations with a detailed stellar evolution code were used for the first time to study the combined pre- and post-AIC evolution of close binaries. We investigated the mass transfer onto a massive WD in 240 systems with three different types of non-degenerate donor stars: main-sequence stars, red giants, and helium stars. When the WD is able to accrete sufficient mass (depending on the mass-transfer rate and the duration of the accretion phase) we assumed it collapses to form a NS and we studied the dynamical effects of this implosion on the binary orbit. Subsequently, we followed the mass-transfer epoch which resumes once the donor star refills its Roche lobe and calculated the continued LMXB evolution until the end. We demonstrate that the final properties of these MSPs are, in general, remarkably similar to those of MSPs formed via the standard core-collapse SN channel. However, the resultant MSPs created via the AIC channel preferentially form in certain orbital period intervals. Finally, we discuss the link between AIC and young NSs in globular clusters. Our calculations are also applicable to progenitor binaries of SNe Ia under certain conditions. [Abridged]

Evolution towards and beyond accretion-induced collapse of massive white dwarfs and formation of millisecond pulsars [Replacement]

Millisecond pulsars (MSPs) are generally believed to be old neutron stars (NSs), formed via type Ib/c core-collapse supernovae (SNe), which have been spun up to high rotation rates via accretion from a companion star in a low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB). In an alternative formation channel, NSs are produced via the accretion-induced collapse (AIC) of a massive white dwarf (WD) in a close binary. Here we investigate binary evolution leading to AIC and examine if NSs formed in this way can subsequently be recycled to form MSPs and, if so, how they can observationally be distinguished from pulsars formed via the standard core-collapse SN channel in terms of their masses, spins, orbital periods and space velocities. Numerical calculations with a detailed stellar evolution code were used for the first time to study the combined pre- and post-AIC evolution of close binaries. We investigated the mass transfer onto a massive WD in 240 systems with three different types of non-degenerate donor stars: main-sequence stars, red giants, and helium stars. When the WD is able to accrete sufficient mass (depending on the mass-transfer rate and the duration of the accretion phase) we assumed it collapses to form a NS and we studied the dynamical effects of this implosion on the binary orbit. Subsequently, we followed the mass-transfer epoch which resumes once the donor star refills its Roche lobe and calculated the continued LMXB evolution until the end. We demonstrate that the final properties of these MSPs are, in general, remarkably similar to those of MSPs formed via the standard core-collapse SN channel. However, the resultant MSPs created via the AIC channel preferentially form in certain orbital period intervals. Finally, we discuss the link between AIC and young NSs in globular clusters. Our calculations are also applicable to progenitor binaries of SNe Ia under certain conditions. [Abridged]

A comprehensive near and far ultraviolet spectroscopic study of the hot DA white dwarf G191-B2B

We present a detailed spectroscopic analysis of the hot DA white dwarf G191-B2B, using the best signal to noise, high resolution near and far UV spectrum obtained to date. This is constructed from co-added \textit{HST} STIS E140H, E230H, and \textit{FUSE} observations, covering the spectral ranges of 1150-3145\AA\, and 910-1185\AA\, respectively. With the aid of recently published atomic data, we have been able to identify previously undetected absorption features down to equivalent widths of only a few m\AA. In total, 976 absorption features have been detected to $3\sigma$ confidence or greater, with 947 of these lines now possessing an identification, the majority of which are attributed to Fe and Ni transitions. In our survey, we have also potentially identified an additional source of circumstellar material originating from Si {\sc iii}. While we confirm the presence of Ge detected by \citet{vennes05a}, we do not detect any other species. Furthermore, we have calculated updated abundances for C, N, O, Si, P, S, Fe, and Ni, while also calculating, for the first time, an NLTE abundance for Al, deriving Al {\sc iii}/H=$1.60_{-0.08}^{+0.07}\times{10}^{-7}$. Our analysis constitutes what is the most complete spectroscopic survey of any white dwarf. All observed absorption features in the \textit{FUSE} spectrum have now been identified, and relatively few remain elusive in the STIS spectrum.

 

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