Substellar companions to white dwarves
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We search for planets and brown dwarves around white dwarves (WDs). Finding extra-solar planets is the first step toward establishing the existence and abundance of life in the Universe. The low mass and luminosity of WDs make them ideal stars to search for low mass companion objects. Theoretical predictions generally agree that a star will consume and destroy close-in, low mass planets as it ascends the red giant and asymptotic giant branch evolutionary tracks, but larger mass objects and those further out will survive. The matter ejected from the star as it evolves into a white dwarf may also be accreted onto daughter planets, or may coalesce into a disk from which planets can form. We employ two techniques to search for planets and brown dwarves (BDs) around WDs. A subset of pulsating white dwarf stars have a pulsational stability that rivals pulsars and atomic clocks. When a planet is in orbit around a such a star the orbital motion of the star around the centre of mass is detectable as a change in arrival times of the otherwise stable pulsations. We search for, and find, a sample of suitable pulsators, monitor them for between three and four years, and place limits on companions by constraining the variation consistent with a 2.4M[subscript J] planet in a 4.6 year orbit. We also observe a large sample of WDs to search for a mid-infrared excess caused by the presence of sub-stellar companions. We present evidence for a potential binary system consisting of a WD and a BD on the basis of an observed excess flux at near and mind-infrared wavelengths. We also place limits on the presence of planetary mass companions around those stars and compare our results to predictions of planetary survival theories. Our findings do not support suggestions of planet formation or accretion of extra mass during stellar death.