Evidence for the stratification of Fe in the photosphere of G191-B2B

M. A. Barstow, I. Hubeny, J. B. Holberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The presence of heavy elements in the atmospheres of the hottest H-rich DA white dwarfs has been the subject of considerable interest. While theoretical calculations can demonstrate that radiative forces, counteracting the effects of gravitational settling, can explain the detections of individual species, the predicted abundances do not accord well with observation. However, accurate abundance measurements can only be based on a thorough understanding of the physical structure of the white dwarf photospheres, which has proved elusive. Recently, the availability of new non-local thermodynamic equilibrium model atmospheres with improved atomic data has allowed self-consistent analysis of the extreme ultraviolet (EUV), far UV and optical spectra of the prototypical object G191-B2B. Even so, the predicted and observed stellar fluxes remain in serious disagreement at the shortest wavelengths (below ≈190 Å), while the inferred abundances remain largely unaltered. We show here that the complete spectrum of G191-B2B can be explained by a model atmosphere where Fe is stratified, with increasing abundance at greater depth. This abundance profile may explain the difficulties in matching observed photospheric abundances, usually obtained by analyses using homogeneous model atmospheres, to the detailed radiative levitation predictions, particularly as the latter are only strictly valid for regions deeper than where the EUV/far UV lines and continua are formed. Furthermore, the relative depletion of Fe in the outer layers of the atmosphere may be evidence for radiatively driven mass-loss in G191-B2B.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)884-894
Number of pages11
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 21 1999


  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: atmospheres
  • Stars: individual: G191-B2B
  • Ultraviolet: stars
  • White dwarfs
  • X-rays: stars

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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