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  1. Abstract Binary systems of a hot subdwarf B (sdB) star + a white dwarf (WD) with orbital periods less than 2–3 hr can come into contact due to gravitational waves and transfer mass from the sdB star to the WD before the sdB star ceases nuclear burning and contracts to become a WD. Motivated by the growing class of observed systems in this category, we study the phases of mass transfer in these systems. We find that because the residual outer hydrogen envelope accounts for a large fraction of an sdB star’s radius, sdB stars can spend a significant amountmore »of time (∼tens of megayears) transferring this small amount of material at low rates (∼10 −10 –10 −9 M ⊙ yr −1 ) before transitioning to a phase where the bulk of their He transfers at much faster rates ( ≳10 −8 M ⊙ yr −1 ). These systems therefore spend a surprising amount of time with Roche-filling sdB donors at orbital periods longer than the range associated with He star models without an envelope. We predict that the envelope transfer phase should be detectable by searching for ellipsoidal modulation of Roche-filling objects with P orb = 30–100 minutes and T eff = 20,000–30,000 K, and that many (≥10) such systems may be found in the Galactic plane after accounting for reddening. We also argue that many of these systems may go through a phase of He transfer that matches the signatures of AM CVn systems, and that some AM CVn systems associated with young stellar populations likely descend from this channel.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  2. Abstract Hot subdwarf stars are mostly stripped red giants that can exhibit photometric variations due to stellar pulsations, eclipses, the reflection effect, ellipsoidal modulation, and Doppler beaming. Detailed studies of their light curves help constrain stellar parameters through asteroseismological analyses or binary light-curve modeling and generally improve our capacity to draw a statistically meaningful picture of this enigmatic stage of stellar evolution. From an analysis of Gaia DR2 flux errors, we have identified around 1200 candidate hot subdwarfs with inflated flux errors for their magnitudes—a strong indicator of photometric variability. As a pilot study, we obtained 2 minute cadence TESSmore »Cycle 2 observations of 187 candidate hot subdwarfs with anomalous Gaia flux errors. More than 90% of our targets show significant photometric variations in their TESS light curves. Many of the new systems found are cataclysmic variables, but we report the discovery of several new variable hot subdwarfs, including HW Vir binaries, reflection-effect systems, pulsating sdBV s stars, and ellipsoidally modulated systems. We determine atmospheric parameters for select systems using follow-up spectroscopy from the 3 m Shane telescope. Finally, we present a Fourier diagnostic plot for classifying binary light curves using the relative amplitudes and phases of their fundamental and harmonic signals in their periodograms. This plot makes it possible to identify certain types of variables efficiently, without directly investigating their light curves, and may assist in the rapid classification of systems observed in large photometric surveys.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Abstract We present the discovery of a new double-detonation progenitor system consisting of a hot subdwarf B (sdB) binary with a white dwarf companion with a P orb = 76.34179(2) minutes orbital period. Spectroscopic observations are consistent with an sdB star during helium core burning residing on the extreme horizontal branch. Chimera light curves are dominated by ellipsoidal deformation of the sdB star and a weak eclipse of the companion white dwarf. Combining spectroscopic and light curve fits, we find a low-mass sdB star, M sdB = 0.383 ± 0.028 M ⊙ with a massive white dwarf companion, M WDmore »= 0.725 ± 0.026 M ⊙ . From the eclipses we find a blackbody temperature for the white dwarf of 26,800 K resulting in a cooling age of ≈25 Myr whereas our MESA model predicts an sdB age of ≈170 Myr. We conclude that the sdB formed first through stable mass transfer followed by a common envelope which led to the formation of the white dwarf companion ≈25 Myr ago. Using the MESA stellar evolutionary code we find that the sdB star will start mass transfer in ≈6 Myr and in ≈60 Myr the white dwarf will reach a total mass of 0.92 M ⊙ with a thick helium layer of 0.17 M ⊙ . This will lead to a detonation that will likely destroy the white dwarf in a peculiar thermonuclear supernova. PTF1 J2238+7430 is only the second confirmed candidate for a double-detonation thermonuclear supernova. Using both systems we estimate that at least ≈1% of white dwarf thermonuclear supernovae originate from sdB+WD binaries with thick helium layers, consistent with the small number of observed peculiar thermonuclear explosions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 27, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2022
  5. In a search for eclipsing white dwarfs using the Zwicky Transient Facility lightcurves, we identified a deep eclipsing white dwarf with a dark, substellar companion. The lack of an infrared excess and an orbital period of 10 hours made this a potential exoplanet candidate. We obtained high-speed photometry and radial velocity measurements to characterize the system. The white dwarf has a mass of 0.50±0.02M⊙ and a temperature of 10900±200K. The companion has a mass of 0.059±0.004M⊙ and a small radius of 0.0783±0.0013R⊙. It is one of the smallest transiting brown dwarfs known and likely old, ≳8Gyr. The ZTF discovery efficiencymore »of substellar objects transiting white dwarfs is limited by the number of epochs and as ZTF continues to collect data we expect to find more of these systems. This will allow us to measure period and mass distributions and allows us to understand the formation channels of white dwarfs with substellar companions.« less
  6. AM CVn systems are a rare type of accreting binary that consists of a white dwarf and a helium-rich, degenerate donor star. Using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), we searched for new AM CVn systems by focusing on blue, outbursting stars. We first selected outbursting stars using the ZTF alerts. We cross-matched the candidates with Gaia and Pan-STARRS catalogs. The initial selection of candidates based on the Gaia BP-RP contains 1751 unknown objects. We used the Pan-STARRS g-r and r-i color in combination with the Gaia color to identify 59 high-priority candidates. We obtained identification spectra of 35 sources, ofmore »which 18 are high priority candidates, and discovered 9 new AM CVn systems and one magnetic CV which shows only He-II lines. Using the outburst recurrence time, we estimate the orbital periods which are in the range of 29 to 50 minutes. We conclude that targeted followup of blue, outbursting sources is an efficient method to find new AM CVn systems, and we plan to followup all candidates we identified to systematically study the population of outbursting AM CVn systems.« less
  7. We present the goals, strategy and first results of the high-cadence Galactic plane survey using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF). The goal of the survey is to unveil the Galactic population of short-period variable stars, including short period binaries and stellar pulsators with periods less than a few hours. Between June 2018 and January 2019, we observed 64 ZTF fields resulting in 2990 deg2 of high stellar density in ZTF-r band along the Galactic Plane. Each field was observed continuously for 1.5 to 6 hrs with a cadence of 40 sec. Most fields have between 200 and 400 observations obtainedmore »over 2-3 continuous nights. As part of this survey we extract a total of ≈230 million individual objects with at least 80 epochs obtained during the high-cadence Galactic Plane survey reaching an average depth of ZTF-r ≈20.5 mag. For four selected fields with 2 million to 10 million individual objects per field we calculate different variability statistics and find that ≈1-2% of the objects are astrophysically variable over the observed period. We present a progress report on recent discoveries, including a new class of compact pulsators, the first members of a new class of Roche Lobe filling hot subdwarf binaries as well as new ultracompact double white dwarfs and flaring stars. Finally we present a sample of 12 new single-mode hot subdwarf B-star pulsators with pulsation amplitudes between ZTF-r = 20-76 mmag and pulsation periods between P = 5.8-16 min with a strong cluster of systems with periods ≈ 6 min. All of the data have now been released in either ZTF Data Release 3 or data release 4.« less