The binary fraction of planetary nebula central stars - III. the promise of VPHAS+

Barker, H.; Zijlstra, Albert; De Marco, Orsola; Frew, David J.; Drew, Janet E.; Corradi, R. L. M.; Eislöffel, Jochen; Parker, Quentin A.
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Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 475, Issue 4, p.4504-4523

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The majority of planetary nebulae (PNe) are not spherical, and current single-star models cannot adequately explain all the morphologies we observe. This has led to the Binary Hypothesis, which states that PNe are preferentially formed by binary systems. This hypothesis can be corroborated or disproved by comparing the estimated binary fraction of all PNe central stars (CS) to that of the supposed progenitor population. One way to quantify the rate of CS binarity is to detect near infrared excess indicative of a low-mass main-sequence companion. In this paper, a sample of known PNe within data release 2 of the ongoing VPHAS+ is investigated. We give details of the method used to calibrate VPHAS+ photometry, and present the expected colours of CS and main-sequence stars within the survey. Objects were scrutinized to remove PN mimics from our sample and identify true CS. Within our final sample of seven CS, six had previously either not been identified or confirmed. We detected an i-band excess indicative of a low-mass companion star in three CS, including one known binary, leading us to conclude that VPHAS+ provides the precise photometry required for the IR excess method presented here, and will likely improve as the survey completes and the calibration process finalized. Given the promising results from this trial sample, the entire VPHAS+ catalogue should be used to study PNe and extend the IR excess-tested CS sample.
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