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  1. Abstract

    More than 36 yr have passed since the discovery of the infrared excess from circumstellar dust orbiting the white dwarf G29-38, which at 17.5 pc it is the nearest and brightest of its class. The precise morphology of the orbiting dust remains only marginally constrained by existing data, subject to model-dependent inferences, and thus fundamental questions of its dynamical origin and evolution persist. This study presents a means to constrain the geometric distribution of the emitting dust using stellar pulsations measured at optical wavelengths as a variable illumination source of the dust, which reradiates primarily in the infrared. By combining optical photometry from the Whole Earth Telescope with 0.7–2.5μm spectroscopy obtained with SpeX at NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, we detect luminosity variations at all observed wavelengths, with variations at most wavelengths corresponding to the behavior of the pulsating stellar photosphere, but toward the longest wavelengths the light curves probe the corresponding time variability of the circumstellar dust. In addition to developing methodology, we find the pulsation amplitudes decrease with increasing wavelength for principal pulsation modes, yet increase beyond ≈2μm for nonlinear combination frequencies. We interpret these results as combination modes derived from the principal modes of identicalvalues and discuss the implications for the morphology of the warm dust. We also draw attention to some discrepancies between our findings and theoretical expectations for the results of the nonlinearity imposed by the surface convection zone on mode–mode interactions and on the behavior of the first harmonic of the highest-amplitude pulsation mode.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024