Journal Article

The defining characteristics of intermediate polars – the case of three-candidate systems

Gavin Ramsay, Peter J. Wheatley, A. J. Norton, Pasi Hakala and Darren Baskill

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 387, issue 3, pages 1157-1162
Published in print July 2008 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13299.x
The defining characteristics of intermediate polars – the case of three-candidate systems

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Intermediate polars (IPs) are a group of cataclysmic variables (CVs) which are thought to contain white dwarfs which have a magnetic field strength in the range ∼0.1–10 MG. A significant fraction of the X-ray sources detected in recent deep surveys has been postulated to consist of IPs. Until now two of the defining characteristics of IPs have been the presence of high (and complex) absorption in their X-ray spectra and the presence of a stable modulation in the X-ray light curve which is a signature of the spin period, or the beat period, of the accreting white dwarf. Three CVs, V426 Oph, EI UMa and LS Peg, have characteristics which are similar to IPs. However, there has been only tentative evidence for a coherent period in their X-ray light curve. We present the results of a search for coherent periods in XMM–Newton data of these sources using an autoregressive analysis which models the effects of red noise. We confirm the detection of a ∼760 s period in the soft X-ray light curve of EI UMa reported by Reimer et al. and agree that this represents the spin period. We also find evidence for peaks in the power spectrum of each source in the range 100–200 s which are just above the 3σ confidence level. We do not believe that they represent genuine coherent modulations. However, their X-ray spectra are very similar to those of known IPs. We believe that all three CVs are bona fide IPs. We speculate that V426 Oph and LS Peg do not show evidence for a spin period since they have closely aligned magnetic and spin axes. We discuss the implications that this has for the defining characteristics of IPs.

Keywords: binaries: close; stars: individual: EI UMa; stars: individual: LS Peg; stars: individual: V426 Oph; novae, cataclysmic variables; X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  3979 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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