Binary Stars

Start year
1988
Organizational Unit
    General
    Description

    The study of binary stars is essential to stellar astrophysics. A large number of stars form and evolve within binary systems. Therefore, their study is fundamental to understand stellar and galactic evolution. Particularly relevant is that binary systems are still the best source of precise stellar mass and radius measurements.

    Research lines:

    • Determination of absolute parameters of Algol-type eclipsing binaries. In 2006 we started a new project to derive accurate masses and radii of low-mass eclipsing binaries of spectral type M. These will be confronted with theoretical predictions for the lower main sequence.
    • Study of the structure and evolution of cataclysmic variables (CVs). Among the main goals we highlight a fundamental test of the current evolution theory, which will observationally prove or discard several of its predictions. In doing so, population studies on both the observed minimum orbital period region (~ 80 min) and the upper boundary of the period gap (in the 3-4.5 hour orbital period range) are being performed. On the other hand, our research has demonstrated the existence of a huge pile-up of intrinsically very luminous CVs (with the highest mass transfer rates known), with orbital periods just above 3 hours, in apparent contradiction to theoretical expectations. The masses of these systems are being determined using ToO time in 8-m class telescopes as VLT and Gemini, and the 10.4-m GTC when a system falls into a low brightness state characterised by the quenching of the mass transfer from the donor star to the white dwarf.
    • Study of central binary stars of planetary nebulae. One plausible effect leading to bipolar shapes in planetary nebulae is the presence of a progenitor binary star in their centres, containing at least one white dwarf. This project is aimed at finding a significant "bipolarity-binarity" correlation within bipolar planetary nebulae. Further, the history of the mass ejection episodes will give clues to the common-envelope stage, still poorly understood.
    • In mid-2017 we started another research line in the field of white dwarfs: the study of post-planetary remnants around these stars, which can greatly benefit from our studies of accretion discs in cataclysmic variables.
    Principal investigator
    1. Many white dwarf stars show signs of having accreted smaller bodies, implying that they may host planetary systems. A small number of these systems contain gaseous debris discs, visible through emission lines. We found a stable 123.4-minute periodic variation in the strength and shape of the Ca II emission line profiles originating from the debris disc around the white dwarf SDSS J122859.93+104032.9. We interpret this short-period signal as the signature of a solid-body planetesimal held together by its internal strength. Results published in Science.
    2. Discovery of a giant bubble-like shell around M31N 2008–12a, the recurrent nova with the shortest eruption recurrence period (one year). Results published in Nature.
    3. A fast GTC/OSIRIS spectrophotometric study of the white dwarf WD 1145+017 has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that reports confirmation of the evolution of the periodic transits that occur every 4.5 hours. The deepest transit detected to date has been modelled with six equally spaced fragments of the disrupting planetesimal.
    4. In 2018 an International Time Programme for follow-up of gravitational wave events was awarded (PI Jonker, SRON, The Netherlands). Several members of the projects are co-Is. Rodríguez-Gil will serve as chair on the Executive Committee.

    Related publications

    • Velocity-imaging the rapidly precessing planetary disc around the white dwarf HE 1349-2305 using Doppler tomography

      The presence of planetary material in white dwarf atmospheres, thought to be accreted from a dusty debris disc produced via the tidal disruption of a planetesimal, is common. Approximately 5 per cent of these discs host a co-orbital gaseous component detectable via emission from atomic transitions - usually the 8600 Å Ca II triplet. These emission

      Manser, Christopher J. et al.

      Advertised on:

      12
      2021
    • Searching for Fermi GRB optical counterparts with the prototype Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO)

      The typical detection rate of ~1 gamma-ray burst (GRB) per day by the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) provides a valuable opportunity to further our understanding of GRB physics. However, the large uncertainty of the Fermi localization typically prevents rapid identification of multiwavelength counterparts. We report the follow-up of 93 Fermi

      Mong, Y. -L. et al.

      Advertised on:

      11
      2021
    • Optical detection of the rapidly spinning white dwarf in V1460 Her

      Accreting magnetic white dwarfs offer an opportunity to understand the interplay between spin-up and spin-down torques in binary systems. Monitoring of the white dwarf spin may reveal whether the white dwarf spin is currently in a state of near-equilibrium, or of unidirectional evolution towards longer or shorter periods, reflecting the recent

      Pelisoli, Ingrid et al.

      Advertised on:

      11
      2021
    • The intermediate polar cataclysmic variable GK Persei 120 years after the nova explosion: a first dynamical mass study

      We present a dynamical study of the intermediate polar and dwarf nova cataclysmic variable GK Persei (Nova Persei 1901) based on a multisite optical spectroscopy and R-band photometry campaign. The radial velocity curve of the evolved donor star has a semi-amplitude $K_2=126.4 \pm 0.9 \, \mathrm{km}\, \mathrm{s}^{-1}$ and an orbital period $P=1

      Álvarez-Hernández, A. et al.

      Advertised on:

      11
      2021
    • Gaia Early Data Release 3. Gaia photometric science alerts

      Context. Since July 2014, the Gaia mission has been engaged in a high-spatial-resolution, time-resolved, precise, accurate astrometric, and photometric survey of the entire sky. Aims: We present the Gaia Science Alerts project, which has been in operation since 1 June 2016. We describe the system which has been developed to enable the discovery and

      Hodgkin, S. T. et al.

      Advertised on:

      8
      2021
    • HiPERCAM: a quintuple-beam, high-speed optical imager on the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias

      HiPERCAM is a portable, quintuple-beam optical imager that saw first light on the 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) in 2018. The instrument uses re-imaging optics and four dichroic beamsplitters to record $u_{\rm s}\, g_{\rm s}\, r_{\rm s}\, i_{\rm s}\, z_{\rm s}$ (320-1060 nm) images simultaneously on its five CCD cameras, each of 3.1-arcmin

      Dhillon, V. S. et al.

      Advertised on:

      10
      2021
    • Dynamical confirmation of a stellar mass black hole in the transient X-ray dipping binary MAXI J1305-704

      MAXI J1305-704 has been proposed as a high-inclination candidate black hole X-ray binary in view of its X-ray properties and dipping behaviour during outburst. We present photometric and spectroscopic observations of the source in quiescence that allow us to reveal the ellipsoidal modulation of the companion star and absorption features consistent

      Mata Sánchez, D. et al.

      Advertised on:

      9
      2021
    • Light-curve classification with recurrent neural networks for GOTO: dealing with imbalanced data

      The advent of wide-field sky surveys has led to the growth of transient and variable source discoveries. The data deluge produced by these surveys has necessitated the use of machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) algorithms to sift through the vast incoming data stream. A problem that arises in real-world applications of learning algorithms

      Burhanudin, U. F. et al.

      Advertised on:

      8
      2021
    • Processing GOTO survey data with the Rubin Observatory LSST Science Pipelines II: Forced Photometry and lightcurves

      We have adapted the Vera C. Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) Science Pipelines to process data from the Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) prototype. In this paper, we describe how we used the LSST Science Pipelines to conduct forced photometry measurements on nightly GOTO data. By comparing the photometry

      Makrygianni, L. et al.

      Advertised on:

      6
      2021
    • A time-series VI study of the variable stars of the globular cluster NGC 6397

      We present a new time-series VI CCD photometry of the globular cluster NGC 6397, from which we obtained and analysed the light curves of 35 variables carefully identified in the cluster field. We assessed the membership of the variables with an astrometric analysis based on Gaia DR2 data. The cluster colour-magnitude diagram was differentially

      Ahumada, J. A. et al.

      Advertised on:

      10
      2021
    • A transmission spectrum of the planet candidate WD 1856+534 b and a lower limit to its mass

      The cool white dwarf WD 1856+534 was found to be transited by a Jupiter-sized object with a mass at or below 14 MJup. We used the GTC telescope to obtain and analyse the photometry and low-resolution spectroscopy of six transits of WD 1856+534 b, with the intention of deriving the slope of the transmission spectrum. Such a slope, assuming a cloud

      Alonso, R. et al.

      Advertised on:

      5
      2021
    • White dwarfs with planetary remnants in the era of Gaia - I. Six emission line systems

      White dwarfs with emission lines from gaseous debris discs are among the rarest examples of planetary remnant hosts, but at the same time they are key objects for studying the final evolutionary stage of planetary systems. Making use of the large number of white dwarfs identified in Gaia Data Release 2 (DR2), we are conducting a survey of planetary

      Gentile Fusillo, N. P. et al.

      Advertised on:

      6
      2021
    • Transient-optimized real-bogus classification with Bayesian convolutional neural networks - sifting the GOTO candidate stream

      Large-scale sky surveys have played a transformative role in our understanding of astrophysical transients, only made possible by increasingly powerful machine learning-based filtering to accurately sift through the vast quantities of incoming data generated. In this paper, we present a new real-bogus classifier based on a Bayesian convolutional

      Killestein, T. L. et al.

      Advertised on:

      5
      2021
    • Exploring the tilted accretion disc of AQ Men with TESS

      AQ Men is a nova-like variable that is presumed to have a tilted, precessing accretion disc. Grazing eclipses in this system have been speculated to be useful in exploring the geometry of its accretion disc. In this work, we analysed Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) observations of AQ Men, which provide the best light curve of this

      Iłkiewicz, Krystian et al.

      Advertised on:

      5
      2021
    • BG Tri: an example of a low-inclination RW Sex-type nova-like

      We analyse a wealth of optical spectroscopic and photometric observations of the bright (V = 11.9) cataclysmic variable BG Tri. The Gaia DR2 parallax gives a distance d = 334(8) pc to the source, making the object one of the intrinsically brightest nova-like variables seen under a low orbital inclination angle. Time-resolved spectroscopic

      Hernández, M. S. et al.

      Advertised on:

      5
      2021
    • Evidence that short-period AM CVn systems are diverse in outburst behaviour

      We present results of our analysis of up to 15 yr of photometric data from eight AM CVn systems with orbital periods between 22.5 and 26.8 min. Our data have been collected from the GOTO, ZTF, Pan-STARRS, ASAS-SN, and Catalina all-sky surveys and amateur observations collated by the AAVSO. We find evidence that these interacting ultracompact

      Duffy, C. et al.

      Advertised on:

      4
      2021
    • Dynamical modelling of CXOGBS J175553.2-281633: a 10 h long orbital period cataclysmic variable

      We present modelling of the long-term optical light and radial velocity curves of the binary stellar system CXOGBS J175553.2-281633, first detected in X-rays in the Chandra Galactic Bulge Survey. We analysed 7 yr of optical I-band photometry from Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment and found long-term variations from year to year. These long

      Gomez, Sebastian et al.

      Advertised on:

      3
      2021
    • WD1032 + 011, an inflated brown dwarf in an old eclipsing binary with a white dwarf

      We present the discovery of only the third brown dwarf known to eclipse a non-accreting white dwarf. Gaia parallax information and multicolour photometry confirm that the white dwarf is cool (9950 ± 150 K) and has a low mass (0.45 ± 0.05 M☉), and spectra and light curves suggest the brown dwarf has a mass of 0.067 ± 0.006 M☉ (70MJup) and a spectral

      Casewell, S. L. et al.

      Advertised on:

      9
      2020
    • Processing GOTO data with the Rubin Observatory LSST Science Pipelines I: Production of coadded frames

      The past few decades have seen the burgeoning of wide-field, high-cadence surveys, the most formidable of which will be the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) to be conducted by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. So new is the field of systematic time-domain survey astronomy; however, that major scientific insights will continue to be obtained

      Mullaney, J. R. et al.

      Advertised on:

      1
      2021
    • A quantitative in-depth analysis of the prototype sdB+BD system SDSS J08205+0008 revisited in the Gaia era

      Subdwarf B stars are core-helium-burning stars located on the extreme horizontal branch (EHB). Extensive mass loss on the red giant branch is necessary to form them. It has been proposed that substellar companions could lead to the required mass loss when they are engulfed in the envelope of the red giant star. J08205+0008 was the first example of

      Schaffenroth, V. et al.

      Advertised on:

      3
      2021

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