Effective temperatures of cataclysmic-variable white dwarfs as a probe of their evolution

A. F. Pala, B. T. Gänsicke, D. Townsley, D. Boyd, M. J. Cook, D. De Martino, P. Godon, J. B. Haislip, A. A. Henden, I. Hubeny, K. M. Ivarsen, S. Kafka, C. Knigge, A. P. LaCluyze, K. S. Long, T. R. Marsh, B. Monard, J. P. Moore, G. Myers, P. NelsonD. Nogami, A. Oksanen, R. Pickard, G. Poyner, D. E. Reichart, D. Rodriguez Perez, M. R. Schreiber, J. Shears, E. M. Sion, R. Stubbings, P. Szkody, M. Zorotovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


We present HST spectroscopy for 45 cataclysmic variables (CVs), observed with HST/COS and HST/STIS. For 36 CVs, the white dwarf is recognisable through its broad Ly α absorption profile and we measure the white dwarf effective temperatures (Teff) by fitting the HST data assuming log g = 8.35, which corresponds to the average mass for CV white dwarfs (≃0.8M). Our results nearly double the number of CV white dwarfs with an accurate temperature measurement. We find that CVs above the period gap have, on average, higher temperatures (〈 Teff〉 ≃ 23 000 K) and exhibit much more scatter compared to those below the gap (〈Teff〉 ≃ 15 000 K). While this behaviour broadly agrees with theoretical predictions, some discrepancies are present: (i) all our new measurements above the gap are characterized by lower temperatures (Teff ≃ 16 000-26 000 K) than predicted by the present-day CV population models (Teff ≃ 38 000-43 000 K); (ii) our results below the gap are not clustered in the predicted narrow track and exhibit in particular a relatively large spread near the period minimum, which may point to some shortcomings in the CV evolutionary models. Finally, in the standard model of CV evolution, reaching the minimum period, CVs are expected to evolve back towards longer periods with mean accretion rates M ≲ 2 × 10-11M yr-1, corresponding to Teff ≲ 11 500 K. We do not unambiguously identify any such system in our survey, suggesting that this major component of the predicted CV population still remains elusive to observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2855-2878
Number of pages24
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 21 2017


  • Novae, cataclysmic variables
  • Stars: fundamental parameters
  • Ultraviolet: stars
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effective temperatures of cataclysmic-variable white dwarfs as a probe of their evolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this