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We are trying to reduce the largest uncertainties in using white dwarf stars as Galactic chronometers by understanding the details of carbon crystalliazation that currently result in a 1–2 Gyr uncertainty in the ages of the oldest white dwarf stars. We expect the coolest white dwarf stars to have crystallized interiors, but theory also predicts hotter white dwarf stars, if they are massive enough, will also have some core crystallization. BPM 37093 is the first discovered of only a handful of known massive white dwarf stars that are also pulsating DAV, or ZZ Ceti, variables. Our approach is to use the pulsations to constrain the core composition and amount of crystallization. Here we report our analysis of 4 hours of continuous time series spectroscopy of BPM 37093 with Gemini South combined with simultaneous time-series photometry from Mt. John (New Zealand), SAAO, PROMPT, and Complejo Astronomico El Leoncito (CASLEO, Argentina).
The study of variable stars has played a central role in astronomy for over 400 years, and more so in the present than at any time in history. Stars, especially variable stars, are astrophysical laboratories for understanding physical processes in the universe. Stars represent the fundamental components of stellar systems, galaxies and the universe.
Massive pulsating white dwarf stars are extremely rare, because of their small size and because they are the final product of high-mass stars, which are less common. Because of their intrinsic smaller size, they are fainter than the normal size white dwarf stars. The motivation to look for this type of stars is to be able to study in detail their internal structure and also derive generic properties for the sub-class of variables, the massive ZZ Ceti stars. Our goal is to investigate whether the internal structures of these stars differ from the lower-mass ones, which in turn could have been resultant from the previous evolutionary stages.
In this paper, we present the ensemble seismological analysis of the known massive pulsating white dwarf stars. Some of these pulsating stars might have substantial crystallized cores, which would allow us to probe solid physics in extreme conditions.
As research on variable stars continues at an ever growing pace, this report can only give a selection of research highlights from the past three years, with a rigorously abbreviated bibliography. The past triennium has been dominated by results of the CoRoT (Astronomy & Astrophysics 2009) and Kepler (Gilliland et al. 2010) space missions, stemming from their unprecedented photometric accuracies and large time bases.
Astronomy in Brazil grew to around 500 astronomers in the last 30 years and is producing around 200 papers per year in refereed journals. Brazilian astronomers are participating in several international collaborations and the development of instrumentation is on the rise.
What follows is a short report on the Business Meeting of the Astronomy and World Heritage Working Group held on Thursday August 6, 2009. This was the first formal Business Meeting of the Working Group since its formation following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the IAU and UNESCO on Astronomy and World Heritage in October 2008.
We are searching for pulsations in cool (< 6000 K) white dwarfs (WDs), hoping to apply asteroseismological techniques to improve our understanding of their structure and the physical processes inside them. This information is important as we use cool WDs to estimate the lower limit of the age of the Galactic disk. Within a spectroscopic and photometric survey of 110 cool WDs by Bergeron, Ruiz, & Legget, we find 28 candidates with appropriate effective temperatures, masses, and chemical compositions for possible pulsations in nonradial g modes with periods similar to those we observe in DAVs. So far, we have observed 4 candidates, but have found no evidence of large variation.
We have used the rate of change of pulsation period for the hot (DOV) pre-white dwarf PG1159–035 and the cool (DAV) white dwarf G117–B15A to measure their evolutionary time scales. We show that, for any multiperiodic star, we must take into account the effect of all pulsations simultaneously on the times of maximum of the pulsations to get reliable measurements of periods and phases.
With a time-series CCD photometry survey, we have demonstrated clearly that the observed red edge for the ZZ Ceti stars instability strip at 11,000 K is not an observational selection effect. Previous surveys for variability among hydrogen atmosphere white dwarfs at around 11,000 K have been carried out using high speed photometry which suffers from variable extinction effects that start becoming important at periods of 15 minutes. In our survey we constantly monitor the sky brightness as well as one or more comparison stars. This is done through the same color filter, therefore minimizing adverse effects of differential extinction. The fact that the theoretical red edge should be around 8,000 K remains, but effects not included in the theory, especially convection-aulsation interaction, could explain it.
The variability of CD-24 7599 (V=11.48 mag) was discovered by JCC during observing run XCOV7 of the Whole Earth Telescope (WET, Nather et al. 1990) network in February, 1992. The star was observed as an additional target and 117 hours of high-quality temporal spectroscopic observations were obtained.
Our analysis of these data revealed the presence of 7 independent pulsation modes between 27.0 and 38.1 cycles per day (313 – 441 μHz) with semiamplitudes of 2.1 – 10.2 milli-modulation amplitudes (mma). We showed that peaks at linear combination frequencies detected in the power spectra were not due to eigenmodes excited to visible amplitude by resonant mode coupling.
The ZZ Ceti stars form a class of variable white dwarfs: the hydrogen dominated atmosphere ones, which do pulsate in an instability strip in the effective temperature range 13000K-11500K. We know 22 such ZZ Ceti white dwarfs. Their variations are caused by nonradial g-mode pulsations with periods are in the range 100-1000 seconds.
A subsample of the ZZ Ceti stars shows amplitude variations on time scales of the order of one month. These variations could be driven by nonlinear phenomena.
White dwarf stars provide important boundary conditions for the understanding of stellar evolution. An adequate understanding of even these simple stars is impossible without detailed knowledge of their interiors. PG1346+082, an interacting binary white dwarf system, provides a unique opportunity to view the interior of one degenerate as it is brought to light in the accretion disk of the second star as the primary strips material from its less massive companion (see Wood et at. 1987).
PG1346+082 is a photometric variable with a four magnitude variation over a four to five day quasi-period. A fast Fourier transform (FFT) of the light curve shows a complex, time-dependent structure of harmonics. PG1346+082 exhibits flickering – the signature of mass transfer. The optical spectra of the system contain weak emission features during minimum and broad absorption at all other times. This could be attributed to pressure broadening in the atmosphere of a compact object, or to a combination of pressure broadening and doppler broadening in a disk surrounding the compact accretor. No hydrogen lines are observed and the spectra are dominated by neutral helium. The spectra also display variable asymmetric line profiles.
The importance of the ZZ Ceti stars, and indeed the importance of all pulsating stars, derives from the fact that stellar pulsations probe the interiors of stars, and thus they test directly our models of stellar interiors and stellar evolution. The relative value of stellar pulsations as such a probe depends on, among other factors, the number of pulsation modes simultaneously excited in a star, as each additional mode depends on and constrains the properties of the star in a different way. Judged by this criterion, the pulsations of the ZZ Ceti stars should be unusually valuable because all ZZ Ceti stars are multi-mode variables. For example, among the ZZ Ceti stars with well studied light curves, the one with the fewest modes is R548 (= ZZ Ceti itself) with 4 pulsation modes simultaneously excited (Robinson et al. 1976), while some of the other ZZ Ceti stars can have dozens of pulsation modes simutaneously excited (cf. Robinson 1979).
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