Journal Article

The space density and X-ray luminosity function of non-magnetic cataclysmic variables

Magaretha L. Pretorius and Christian Knigge

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 419, issue 2, pages 1442-1454
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.19801.x
The space density and X-ray luminosity function of non-magnetic cataclysmic variables

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We combine two complete, X-ray flux-limited surveys, the ROSAT Bright Survey (RBS) and the ROSAT North Ecliptic Pole (NEP) survey, to measure the space density (ρ) and X-ray luminosity function (Φ) of non-magnetic cataclysmic variables (CVs). The combined survey has a flux limit of FX≳ 1.1 × 10−12 erg cm−2 s−1 over most of its solid angle of just over , but is as deep as ≃10−14 erg cm−2 s−1 over a small area. The CV sample that we construct from these two surveys contains 20 non-magnetic systems. We carefully include all sources of statistical error in calculating ρ and Φ by using Monte Carlo simulations; the most important uncertainty proves to be the often large errors in distances estimates. If we assume that the 20 CVs in the combined RBS and NEP survey sample are representative of the intrinsic population, the space density of non-magnetic CVs is . We discuss the difficulty in measuring Φ in some detail – in order to account for biases in the measurement, we have to adopt a functional form for Φ. Assuming that the X-ray luminosity function of non-magnetic CVs is a truncated power law, we constrain the power-law index to −0.80 ± 0.05. It seems likely that the two surveys have failed to detect a large, faint population of short-period CVs, and that the true space density may well be a factor of 2 or 3 larger than what we have measured; this is possible, even if we only allow for undetected CVs to have X-ray luminosities in the narrow range 28.7 < log(LX/erg s−1) < 29.7. However, ρ as high as 2 × 10−4 pc−3 would require that the majority of CVs has X-ray luminosities below LX= 4 × 1028 erg s−1 in the 0.5–2.0 keV band.

Keywords: methods: observational; methods: statistical; stars: dwarf novae; novae, cataclysmic variables; X-rays: binaries

Journal Article.  10890 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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