Journal Article

Planet-mediated precision reconstruction of the evolution of the cataclysmic variable HU Aquarii

S. Portegies Zwart

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 429, issue 1, pages L45-L49
Published in print February 2013 |
Published online November 2012 | e-ISSN: 1745-3933 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mnrasl/sls022

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Cataclysmic variables (CVs) are binaries in which a compact white dwarf accretes material from a low-mass companion star. The discovery of two planets in orbit around the CV HU Aquarii (HU Aqr) opens unusual opportunities for understanding the formation and evolution of this system. In particular, the orbital parameters of the planets constrain the past and enable us to reconstruct the evolution of the system through the common-envelope phase. During this dramatic event, the entire hydrogen envelope of the primary star is ejected, passing the two planets on the way. The observed eccentricities and orbital separations of the planets in HU Aqr enable us to limit the common-envelope parameter αλ = 0.45 ± 0.17 or γ = 1.77 ± 0.02 and measure the rate at which the common envelope is ejected, which turns out to be copious. The mass in the common envelope is ejected from the binary system at a rate of [math]. The reconstruction of the initial conditions for HU Aqr indicates that the primary star had a mass of MZAMS = 1.6 ± 0.2 M and a mZAMS = 0.47 ± 0.04 M companion in a a = 25–160 R (best value a = 97 R) binary. The two planets were born with an orbital separation of aa = 541 ± 44 R and ab = 750 ± 72 R, respectively. After the common envelope, the primary star turns into a 0.52 ± 0.01 M helium white dwarf, which subsequently accretes ∼0.30 M from its Roche lobe filling companion star, grinding it down to its current observed mass of 0.18 M⊙.

Keywords: methods: numerical; planets and satellites: dynamical evolution and stability; planets and satellites: formation; planet–star interactions; stars: evolution; stars: individual: HU Aquarii

Journal Article.  3772 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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