A search for the hidden population of AM CVn binaries in the sloan digital sky survey

Jason P Carter, Thomas R. Marsh, D. Steeghs, P. J. Groot, Gijs Nelemans, A. Levitan, Arne Rau, C. M. Copperwheat, T. Kupfer, G. H.A. Roelofs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


We present the latest results from a spectroscopic survey designed to uncover the hidden population ofAM Canum Venaticorum (AM CVn) binaries in the photometric data base of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). We selected ~2000 candidates based on their photometric colours, a relatively small sample which is expected to contain the majority of all AM CVn binaries in the SDSS (expected to be ~50). We present two new candidate AM CVn binaries discovered using this strategy: SDSS J104325.08+563258.1 and SDSS J173047.59+554518.5. We also present spectra of 29 new cataclysmic variables, 23 DQ white dwarfs and 21 DZ white dwarfs discovered in this survey. The survey is now approximately 70 per cent complete, and the discovery of seven new AM CVn binaries indicates a lower space density than previously predicted. From the essentially complete g = 19 sample, we derive an observed space density of (5 ± 3) × 10-7 pc-3; this is lower than previous estimates by a factor of 3. The sample has been cross-matched with the GALEX All-Sky Imaging Survey data base, and with Data Release 9 of the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS). The addition of UV photometry allows new colour cuts to be applied, reducing the size of our sample to ~1100 objects. Optimizing our follow-up should allow us to uncover the remaining AM CVn binaries present in the SDSS, providing the larger homogeneous sample required to more reliably estimate their space density.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2143-2160
Number of pages18
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Accretion, accretion discs - binaries
  • Close - novae, cataclysmic variables - stars
  • Individual
  • SDSS J104325.08+563258.1 - stars
  • SDSS J173047.59+554518.5 -white dwarfs

Cite this