OU astrophysicist predicts detached, eclipsing white dwarfs to merge into exotic star

August 18, 2017

A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist, Mukremin Kilic, and his team have discovered two detached, eclipsing double white dwarf binaries with orbital periods of 40 and 46 minutes, respectively. White dwarfs are the remnants of Sun-like stars, many of which are found in pairs, or binaries. However, only a handful of white dwarf binaries are known with orbital periods less than one hour in the Milky Way -- a galaxy made up of two hundred billion stars -- and most have been discovered by Kilic and his colleagues.

"Short-period white dwarf binaries are interesting because they generate gravitational waves. One of the new discoveries emits so much gravitational waves that it is a new verification source for the upcoming Laser Interferometer Space Antenna -- a gravitational wave satellite," Kilic said.

Kilic, an astrophysics professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, with OU graduate students Alekzander Kosakowski and A. Gianninas, and collaborator Warren R. Brown, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, discovered the two white dwarf binaries using the MMT 6.5-meter telescope, a joint facility of the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona. Observations at the Apache Point Observatory 3.5-meter telescope revealed that one of the binaries is eclipsing, only the seventh known eclipsing white dwarf binary.

In the future, Kilic and his team will watch in real time as the stars eclipse to measure how they are getting closer and closer--a sign they will likely merge. What occurs when the white dwarfs make contact continues to be a mystery at this point. One possibility is an explosion--a phenomenon known as a supernova. Kilic predicts these two stars will come together and create an "exotic star," known as R Coronae Borealis. These stars are often identified for their spectacular declines in brightness at irregular intervals. There are only about 65 R Coronae Borealis stars known in our galaxy.

"The existence of double white dwarfs that merge in 20 to 35 million years is remarkable," Brown said. "It implies that many more such systems must have formed and merged over the age of the Milky Way."
Kilic's paper, "Discovery of a Detached, Eclipsing 40 Min Period Double White Dwarf Binary and a Friend: Implications for He+CO White Dwarf Mergers," is available at https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.05287 in The Astrophysical Journal. Support for this project was provided by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Science Foundation and the National Atmospheric and Space Administration. For more information about this project, please contact OU Professor Mukremin Kilic at kilic@ou.edu.

University of Oklahoma

Related Gravitational Waves Articles from Brightsurf:

Weak equivalence principle violated in gravitational waves
New research published in EPJ C proves theoretically that the Weak Equivalence Principle can be violated by quantum particles in gravitational waves - the ripples in spacetime caused by colossal events such as merging black holes.

Remembrance of waves past: memory imprints motion on scattered waves
Now, it appears that between relativity and the classical (stationary) wave regime, there exists another regime of wave phenomena, where memory influences the scattering process.

New populations of black holes revealed by gravitational waves
The gravitational wave detectors LIGO and Virgo have just chalked up their biggest catch yet, a black hole 142 times the mass of the Sun, resulting from the merger of two ''lighter'' black holes.

Tabletop quantum experiment could detect gravitational waves
Tiny diamond crystals could be used as an incredibly sensitive and small gravitational detector capable of measuring gravitational waves, suggests new UCL-led research.

Gravitational waves could prove the existence of the quark-gluon plasma
According to modern particle physics, matter produced when neutron stars merge is so dense that it could exist in a state of dissolved elementary particles.

X-rays and gravitational waves will combine to illuminate massive black hole collisions
A new study by a group of researchers at the University of Birmingham has found that collisions of supermassive black holes may be simultaneously observable in both gravitational waves and X-rays at the beginning of the next decade.

Quantum expander for gravitational-wave observatories
Gravitational-wave detectors use ultra-stable laser light stored in optical cavities to achieve the high sensitivity for detecting gravitational-wave signals from merging binary black holes and neutron stars.

Gravitational lensing provides a new measurement of the expansion of the universe
Amid ongoing uncertainty around the value of the Hubble Constant, uncertainty largely created by issues around measuring distances to objects in the galaxy, scientists who used a new distance technique have derived a different Hubble value, one 'somewhat higher than the standard value,' as Tamara Davis describes it in a related Perspective.

Gravitational waves leave a detectable mark, physicists say
New research shows that gravitational waves leave behind plenty of 'memories' that could help detect them even after they've passed.

DIY gravitational waves with 'BlackHoles@Home'
Researchers hoping to better interpret data from the detection of gravitational waves generated by the collision of binary black holes are turning to the public for help.

Read More: Gravitational Waves News and Gravitational Waves Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.