Detection of a white dwarf companion to the white dwarf SDSSJ125733.63+542850.5

Thomas R. Marsh, B. T. Gänsicke, D. Steeghs, J. Southworth, D. Koester, Vandra Harris, L. Merry

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SDSSJ125733.63+542850.5 (hereafter SDSSJ1257+5428) is a compact white dwarf binary from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey that exhibits high-amplitude radial velocity variations on a period of 4.56 hr. While an initial analysis suggested the presence of a neutron star or black hole binary companion, a follow-up study concluded that the spectrum was better understood as a combination of two white dwarfs. Here we present optical spectroscopy and ultraviolet fluxes which directly reveal the presence of the second white dwarf in the system. SDSSJ1257+5428's spectrum is a composite, dominated by the narrow-lined spectrum from a cool, low-gravity white dwarf (Teff ≃ 6300K, log g = 5-6.6) with broad wings from a hotter, high-mass white dwarf companion (11, 000-14, 000K; ≈1 M). The high-mass white dwarf has unusual line profiles which lack the narrow central core to Hα that is usually seen in white dwarfs. This is consistent with rapid rotation with vsin i = 500-1750 km s-1, although other broadening mechanisms such as magnetic fields, pulsations, or a helium-rich atmosphere could also be contributory factors. The cool component is a puzzle since no evolutionary model matches its combination of low gravity and temperature. Within the constraints set by our data, SDSSJ1257+5428 could have a total mass greater than the Chandrasekhar limit and thus be a potential Type Ia supernova progenitor. However, SDSSJ1257+5428's unusually low-mass ratio q ≈ 0.2 suggests that it is more likely that it will evolve into an accreting double white dwarf (AM CVn star).

Original languageEnglish
Article number95
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • accretion, accretion disks
  • binaries: close
  • supernovae: general
  • white dwarfs

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