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Metal-rich debris discs around white dwarfs

Metal-rich debris discs around white dwarfs

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Published by: ardeegee on Sep 05, 2008
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Extreme Solar SystemsASP Conference Series, Vol. **VOLUME**, 2008 D. Fischer, F. Rasio, S. Thorsett, and A. Wolszczan 
Metal-rich debris discs around white dwarfs
B.T. G¨ansicke, T.R. Marsh, J. Southworth, A. Rebassa-Mansergas
University of Warwick, Dept. of Physics, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK 
We have identified two moderately hot (
18000–22000K) whitedwarfs, SDSSJ1228+1040 and SDSSJ1043+0855, which exhibit double-peakedemission lines in the CaII
8600 triplet. These line profiles are unambiguoussignatures of gaseous discs with outer radii of 
orbiting the two whitedwarfs. Both stars accrete from the circumstellar material, resulting in largephotospheric Mg abundances. The absence of hydrogen emission from the discs,and helium absorption in the white dwarf photospheres demonstrates that thecircumstellar material is depleted in volatile elements, and the most likely originof these gaseous rings are tidally disrupted rocky asteroids. The relatively highmass of SDSSJ1228+1040 implies that planetary systems can not only formaround 4
stars, but may also survive their post main-sequence evolution.
1. Introduction
While more than 250 extra-solar planets orbiting main-sequence stars have beendiscovered, the destiny of planetary systems in the late stages of the evolutionof their host stars is very uncertain, and so far no planet has been found arounda white dwarf. Infrared excess detected around a number of white dwarfs hasbeen interpreted as the signature of dust discs (e.g.Zuckerman & Becklin 1987;Becklin et al. 2005;Kilic et al. 2006;von Hippel et al. 2007). The photospheres of these white dwarfs are rich in metals (Zuckerman et al. 2007), indicatingongoing accretion from the circumstellar material. The likely origin of thesedebris discs are tidally disrupted asteroids (Jura 2003), and hence they representa close association with the planetary systems that the white dwarf progenitorstars may have had. However, while the infrared excess detected around thesewhite dwarfs can be explained in terms of a dusty debris disc, the observationsactually do not provide any strong constraint on the geometry of the source of theinfrared light (e.g.Reach et al. 2005). We summarise here our recent discoveryof two white dwarfs in the SDSS spectroscopic data base which exhibit double-peaked emission lines of CaII
8600, unambiguously confirming a circumstellardisc-like structure (ansicke et al. 2006,2007)
2. Why discs? Why metal-rich? Why planetary debris?
Visually inspecting the SDSS spectra of several hundredwhite dwarfs, we noticedvery unusual CaII
8600 emission lines in SDSSJ122859.93+104032.9 (Fig.1)and SDSSJ104341.53+085558.2 (Fig.2). The double-peaked shape of these lineprofiles is the unmistakable signature of gas rotating around these stars on Ke-plerian orbits (Horne & Marsh 1986;Littlefair et al. 2006). 1
B.T. G¨ansicke et al.
Figure 1. The Sloan spectrum of SDSSJ1228+1040 along with white dwarf model fits. Top left: normalised H
to H
line profiles (top to bottom, graylines) along with the best-fit white dwarf model (black lines). Top right panel:1, 2, and 3
σ χ
contour plots in the
plane. The line profiles allowa “hot” and a “cold” solution (black dots) on either side of the temperaturecorresponding to maximum Balmer line equivalent widths (dashed line). Thedegeneracy in the line profile fits is lifted by the best-fit to the continuum slope(red dot). The best-fit to the line profiles results in
= 22292
296K andlog
= 8
05. Bottom panels: the white dwarf spectrum and associatedflux errors (gray lines) along with the best-fit white dwarf model (black line)to the 3850–7150˚A wavelength range (top) and the residuals of the fit (grayline, bottom). Note the strong, double-peaked emission lines of CaII
While CaII emission lines are observed in a few white dwarfs with low-mass companions (e.g.Marsh & Duck 1996), these lines are
accompa-nied by Balmer emission. In fact, even WD0137–349 and SDSS1035+0551,two white dwarf/brown dwarf binaries, display copious amounts of H
emission(Maxted et al. 2006;Littlefair et al. 2006). In contrast to those binaries, the spectrum of SDSSJ1228+1040 is totally devoid of Balmer emission. We obtainedtime-resolved intermediate resolution spectroscopy and photometric time seriesof SDSSJ1228+1040, which clearly rule out the possibility of this object beinga white dwarf plus low mass companion binary. Photospheric MgI
4482 ab-sorption lines demonstrates that both SDSSJ1228+1040 and SDSSJ1043+0855
Debris discs around white dwarfs 
Figure 2. Left panel: The MgI absorption lines in the moderately hot threeDAZ white dwarfs WD1337+705, SDSSJ1228+1040, and SDSSJ1043+0855.Best-fit models that were used to determine the abundances are shown as graylines. Right panels: The spectra of these three DAZ plus that of the cold DAZGD362 centred on the CaII
8600 triplet. The spectra of SDSSJ1228+1040and SDSSJ1043+0855 display double-peaked CaII emission lines originat-ing in debris discs with outer radii of about 1
. In GD362 photosphericCaII absorption lines are observed, and no CaII features are present in thespectrum of WD1337+705. The comparison of these four objects suggeststhat CaII emission can occur only around white dwarfs which are sufficientlyhot to ionise/excite Ca in the circumstellar debris disc, and that the equiva-lent width of the CaII emission may be correlated with the accretion-inducedphotospheric metal abundance.
are accreting from their circumstellar discs. Stellar parameter of the two whitedwarfs (Fig.1 & 2, Table1) were determined from spectral fits using TLUSTYand SYNSPEC models (Hubeny & Lanz 1995). The absence of hydrogen (and/orhelium) emission from material close to a
20000K white dwarf implies thatthe circumstellar material must be depleted in volatile elements. A low con-tent (
10% solar) of helium in the circumstellar material is corroborated bythe absence of helium lines in the spectrum of SDSSJ1228+1040. A dynam-ical model of the CaII line profiles in SDSSJ1228+1040 computed followingHorne & Marsh(1986) implies an outer radius of the disc of just 1.2 solar radii. This circumstellar material can not have survived the red giant phase of thewhite dwarf progenitor at its current location, and must have been suppliedfrom distances greater than 1000
after the formation of the white dwarf. Aplausible originally is the tidal disruption of a rocky asteroid (Jura 2003), prob-ably destabilised from its original much wider orbit by interaction with a largerobject (Debes & Sigurdsson 2002).

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