ULTRACAM observations of two accreting white dwarf pulsators

C. M. Copperwheat, Thomas R. Marsh, Vik S Dhillon, Stuart P Littlefair, P A Woudt, Richard B Warner, D. Steeghs, B. T. Gänsicke, J. Southworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we present high time-resolution observations of GW Librae (GW Lib) and SDSS J161033.64-010223.3 (SDSS 1610) - two cataclysmic variables which have shown periodic variations attributed to non-radial pulsations of the white dwarf (WD). We observed both these systems in their quiescent states with ULTRACAM on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the University of Cape Town Photometer on the SAAO 1.9 m telescope, and detect the strong pulsations modes reported by previous authors. The identification of further periodicities in GW Lib is limited by the accretion-driven flickering of the source, but in the case of SDSS 1610 we identify several additional low-amplitude periodicities. In both the sources, we find the pulsation modes to be stronger in amplitude at bluer wavelengths. In the case of SDSS 1610, there is evidence to suggest that the two primary signals have a different colour dependence, suggesting that they may be different spherical harmonic modes. We additionally observed GW Lib during several epochs following its 2007 dwarf nova outburst, using ULTRACAM on the VLT and the Auxiliary Port Imager on the William Herschel Telescope. This is the first time a dwarf nova containing a pulsating WD has been observed in such a state. We do not observe any periodicities, suggesting that the heating of the WD had either switched-off the pulsations entirely, or reduced their relative amplitude in flux to the point where they are undetectable. Further observations 11 months after the outburst taken with RATCam on the Liverpool Telescope still do not show the pulsation modes previously observed, but do show the emergence of two new periodic signals, one with a frequency of 74.86 ± 0.68 cycles d -1 (P = 1154 s) and a g′-band amplitude of 2.20 per cent ±0.18 and the other with a frequency of 292.05 ± 1.11 cycles d -1 (P = 296 s) and a g′ amplitude of 1.25 per cent ±0.18. In addition to the WD pulsations, our observations of GW Lib in quiescence show a larger amplitude modulation in luminosity with a period of approximately 2.1 h. This has previously been observed, and its origin is unclear: it is unrelated to the orbital period. We find this modulation to vary over the course of our observations in phase and/or period. Our data support the conclusion that this is an accretion-related phenomenon, which originates in the accretion disc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-170
Number of pages14
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dwarf novae
  • Individual: GW Librae
  • Individual: SDSS J16103.64-010223.3
  • Oscillations
  • Wite dwarfs

Cite this