Two New Tidally Distorted White Dwarfs




Hermes, J. J.
Kilic, Mukremin
Brown, Warren R.
Montgomery, Michael H.
Winget, D. E.

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We identify two new tidally distorted white dwarfs (WDs), SDSS J174140.49+652638.7 and J211921.96-001825.8 (hereafter J1741 and J2119). Both stars are extremely low mass (ELM, <= 0.2 M-circle dot)WDs in short-period, detached binary systems. High-speed photometric observations obtained at the McDonald Observatory reveal ellipsoidal variations and Doppler beaming in both systems; J1741, with a minimum companion mass of 1.1 M-circle dot, has one of the strongest Doppler beaming signals ever observed in a binary system (0.59% +/- 0.06% amplitude). We use the observed ellipsoidal variations to constrain the radius of each WD. For J1741, the star's radius must exceed 0.074R(circle dot). For J2119, the radius exceeds 0.10R(circle dot). These indirect radius measurements are comparable to the radius measurements for the bloated WD companions to A-stars found by the Kepler spacecraft, and they constitute some of the largest radii inferred for any WD. Surprisingly, J1741 also appears to show a 0.23% +/- 0.06% reflection effect, and we discuss possible sources for this excess heating. Both J1741 and J2119 are strong gravitational wave sources, and the time-of-minimum of the ellipsoidal variations can be used to detect the orbital period decay. This may be possible on a timescale of a decade or less.


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Hermes, J. J., Mukremin Kilic, Warren R. Brown, M. H. Montgomery, and D. E. Winget. "Two new tidally distorted white dwarfs." The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 749, No. 1 (Apr., 2012): 42.