Missing from the usual considerations of nuclear burning white dwarfs as Type Ia supernovae progenitors are systems with very higher mass transfer rates, where more material than is needed for steady burning accretes on the white dwarf. This will expand the photosphere of the white dwarf, causing it to emit at longer wavelengths. Thus, we propose the name ultra-soft source (USS) for these objects.
We present a VLT/FLAMES survey looking for USSs in the SMC, selected to be bright in the far UV and with blue far UV-V colors. While we find some unusual objects, and recover known planetary nebulae and WR stars, we detect no objects with strong He II lines, which should be a signature of USSs. This null result either puts an upper limit on the number of USSs in the SMC, or shows that we do not understand what the optical spectra of such objects will look like.
We also discuss the unusual LMC [WN] planetary nebula LMC N66 as a possible example of a USS. It has a luminosity consistent with that expected, and its spectra show incompletely CNO-processed material — strong helium lines, some hydrogen, enhanced nitrogen and depleted carbon. It also shows periodic outbursts. USSs may resemble N66 in quiescence. However, it lacks a FUV excess, contrary to our predictions.