Hubble space telescope STIS spectroscopy of VW hydri during early quiescence following a superoutburst

Edward M. Sion, Fu Hua Cheng, Paula Szkody, Boris Gänsicke, Warren M. Sparks, Ivan Hubeny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Hubble Space Telescope Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) observations of VW Hydri 2 and 7 days after the end of a superoutburst reveal a heated white dwarf with deep broad Lyα, narrow metallic absorption features and evidence of a hotter Keplerian-broadened component. We confirm the existence of enhanced abundances of odd-numbered nuclear species P, Mn, and Al as well as an N/C ratio indicative of CNO H-burning thermonuclear processing. Our best single-temperature white dwarf reduced χ2 fit to the first spectrum reveals (1) a DAZQ white dwarf with Teff = 22,500 ± 500 K, log g = 8.0, and photospheric abundances C = 0.3 solar, N = 3.0 solar, O = 3.0 solar, Si = 0.3 solar, Al = 2 solar, Fe = 0.5 solar, Mg = 3.0 solar, Mn = 50 solar, Ni = 0.3 solar, P = 15 solar, and Ti = 0.1 solar. The best-fit white dwarf + accretion belt composite model yields a large improvement in the reduced χ2 value. The accretion belt temperature is 32,000 K and covers a fractional area of 3%, contributing 11% of the flux. The second spectrum 5 days later reveals slightly increased metal abundances except that P is elevated to 20 times solar while Fe has declined to 0.05 times solar. The white dwarf has cooled by ≈1000 K, the belt temperature is 32,000 K, and the fractional area and flux contribution of the belt are 5% and 20%, respectively. These STIS observations confirm that a past (prehistoric?) thermonuclear runaway has occurred on the white dwarf in VW Hyi. It is expected that the thermonuclear runaway would be strong enough to produce a nova outburst. Therefore, these two classes of close binaries, namely, dwarf novae and classical novae, are linked and can overlap.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L127-L130
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 PART 2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Accretion, accretion disks
  • Stars: abundances
  • Stars: dwarf novae
  • Stars: individual (VW hydri)
  • White dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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