A Status Report On A Planet Search Around White Dwarf Stars

Hermes, J. J.
Mullally, F.
Winget, D. E.
Montgomery, M. H.
Miller, G. F.
Ellis, J. L.
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We have continued monitoring a pilot sample of 15 isolated, pulsating DA white dwarfs for center-of-mass motion caused by a planetary companion. Roughly 7 years into our survey, we have preliminary evidence for periodic variations in pulse arrival times for at least two white dwarfs in our sample. The variations in these systems are unlikely to be caused by secular evolution and are possibly the result of motion of the white dwarf around a center of mass. We have yet to claim confirmation of a planet. GD66 is a previously published candidate system, with a modulation in pulse arrival times that could be caused by a 2.0 M-J sin i planetary companion with an 8.3 year orbital period. Another candidate system, WD1354+0108, has a phase modulation consistent with a 0.7 M-J sin i planet at 2.3 AU (a 4.5 year orbit). We see similar behavior in two independent frequencies within this star, and while a sinusoid is currently a marginally better fit to the data than a straight line (as we might expect from cooling alone in a DAV), we are hesitant to over-interpret our results. Finally, we have a third system, WD0018+0031, that shows a change in pulse arrival times inconsistent with cooling alone; a 2.7 M-J planet at an orbit of about 5 AU could cause the observed trend. Observations of these candidate systems are ongoing in order to constrain any planetary companions that may be present.

J. J. Hermes, F. Mullally, D. E. Winget, M. H. Montgomery, G. F. Miller, J. L. Ellis. AIP Conference Proceedings 1273, 446 (Aug., 2010); doi: 10.1063/1.3527860