58 research outputs found

    Spectroscopic analysis of DA white dwarfs from the McCook & Sion catalog

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    For some years now, we have been gathering optical spectra of DA white dwarfs in an effort to study and define the empirical ZZ Ceti instability strip. However, we have recently expanded this survey to include all the DA white dwarfs in the McCook & Sion catalog down to a limiting visual magnitude of V=17.5. We present here a spectroscopic analysis of over 1000 DA white dwarfs from this ongoing survey. We have several specific areas of interest most notably the hot DAO white dwarfs, the ZZ Ceti instability strip, and the DA+dM binary systems. Furthermore, we present a comparison of the ensemble properties of our sample with those of other large surveys of DA white dwarfs, paying particular attention to the distribution of mass as a function of effective temperature.Comment: 8 pages, 7 figures, to appear in Journal of Physics Conference Proceedings for the 16th European White Dwarf Worksho

    New Insights into the Problem of the Surface Gravity Distribution of Cool DA White Dwarfs

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    We review at length the longstanding problem in the spectroscopic analysis of cool hydrogen-line (DA) white dwarfs (Teff < 13,000 K) where gravities are significantly higher than those found in hotter DA stars. The first solution that has been proposed for this problem is a mild and systematic helium contamination from convective mixing that would mimic the high gravities. We constrain this scenario by determining the helium abundances in six cool DA white dwarfs using high-resolution spectra from the Keck I 10-m telescope. We obtain no detections, with upper limits as low as He/H = 0.04 in some cases. This allows us to put this scenario to rest for good. We also extend our model grid to lower temperatures using improved Stark profiles with non-ideal gas effects from Tremblay & Bergeron and find that the gravity distribution of cool objects remains suspiciously high. Finally, we find that photometric masses are, on average, in agreement with expected values, and that the high-log g problem is so far unique to the spectroscopic approach.Comment: 44 pages, 14 figures, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journa

    Precise Atmospheric Parameters for the Shortest Period Binary White Dwarfs: Gravitational Waves, Metals, and Pulsations

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    We present a detailed spectroscopic analysis of 61 low mass white dwarfs and provide precise atmospheric parameters, masses, and updated binary system parameters based on our new model atmosphere grids and the most recent evolutionary model calculations. For the first time, we measure systematic abundances of He, Ca and Mg for metal-rich extremely low mass white dwarfs and examine the distribution of these abundances as a function of effective temperature and mass. Based on our preliminary results, we discuss the possibility that shell flashes may be responsible for the presence of the observed He and metals. We compare stellar radii derived from our spectroscopic analysis to model-independent measurements and find good agreement except for those white dwarfs with Teff < 10,000 K. We also calculate the expected gravitational wave strain for each system and discuss their significance to the eLISA space-borne gravitational wave observatory. Finally, we provide an update on the instability strip of extremely low mass white dwarf pulsators.Comment: 18 pages, 13 figures, 3 tables, accepted for publication in Ap

    Towards an Empirical Determination of the ZZ Ceti Instability Strip

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    We present atmospheric parameters for a large sample of DA white dwarfs that are known to be photometrically constant. For each star, we determine the effective temperature and surface gravity by comparing high signal-to-noise ratio optical spectra to the predictions of detailed model atmosphere calculations. We also report the successful prediction and detection of photometric variability in G232-38 based on similar Teff and log g determinations. The atmospheric parameters derived for this sample of constant stars as well as those for the known sample of bright ZZ Ceti stars (now boosted to a total of 39) have been obtained in a highly homogeneous way. We combine them to study the empirical red and blue edges as well as the purity of the ZZ Ceti instability strip. We find that the red edge is rather well constrained whereas there exists a rather large range of possibilities for the slope of the blue edge. Furthermore, the ZZ Ceti instability strip that results from our analysis contains no nonvariable white dwarfs. Our sample of constant stars is part of a much broader spectroscopic survey of bright (V < 17) DA white dwarfs, which we have recently undertaken. We also present here some preliminary results of this survey. Finally, we revisit the analysis by Mukadam et al. of the variable and nonvariable DA stars uncovered as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Their erroneous conclusion of an instability strip containing several nonvariable stars is traced back to the low signal-to-noise ratio spectroscopic observations used in that survey.Comment: 43 pages, 2 tables, 14 figures, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journa

    Parameter-free Stark Broadening of Hydrogen Lines in DA White Dwarfs

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    We present new calculations for the Stark broadening of the hydrogen line profiles in the dense atmospheres of white dwarf stars. Our improved model is based on the unified theory of Stark broadening from Vidal, Cooper & Smith, but it also includes non-ideal gas effects from the Hummer & Mihalas occupation probability formalism directly inside the line profile calculations. This approach improves upon previous calculations that relied on the use of an ad-hoc free parameter to describe the dissolution of the line wing opacity in the presence of high electric microfields in the plasma. We present here the first grid of model spectra for hot Teff >~ 12,000 K DA white dwarfs that has no free parameters. The atmospheric parameters obtained from optical and UV spectroscopic observations using these improved models are shown to differ substantially from those published in previous studies.Comment: 8 pages, 8 figures, to appear in Journal of Physics Conference Proceedings for the 16th European White Dwarf Worksho
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