Astrophys. J., 596, 477-495 (2003/October-2)
Metal lines in DA white dwarfs.
ZUCKERMAN B., KOESTER D., REID I.N. and HUNSCH M.
Abstract (from CDS):
We report Keck telescope HIRES echelle observations of DA white dwarfs in a continuation of an extensive search for metals. These spectra are supplemented with new JHK magnitudes that are used to determine improved atmospheric parameters. Of the DA white dwarfs not in binary or common proper motion systems, about 25% show Ca II lines. For these, Ca abundances are determined from comparison with theoretical equivalent widths from model atmosphere calculations; in a few cases we also obtain Mg, Fe, Si, and Al abundances. If Ca is not observed, we generally determine very stringent upper limits. We compare the data to predictions of previously published models involving the accretion/diffusion of interstellar matter and of comets. The derived abundances are not obviously compatible with the predictions of either model, which up to now could only be tested with traces of metals in helium-rich white dwarfs. By modifying certain assumptions in the published interstellar accretion model we are able to match the distribution of the elements in the white dwarf atmospheres, but, even so, tests of other expectations from this scenario are less successful. Because comet accretion appears unlikely to be the primary cause of the DAZ phenomenon, the data suggest that no more than about 20% of F-type main-sequence stars are accompanied by Oort-like comet clouds. This represents the first observational estimate of this fraction. A plausible alternative to the accretion of cometary or interstellar matter is disruption and accretion of asteroidal material, a model first suggested in 1990 to explain excess near-infrared emission from the DAZ G29-38. An asteroidal debris model to account for the general DAZ phenomenon does not presently disagree with the HIRES data, but neither is there any compelling evidence in support of such a model. The HIRES data indicate that in close red dwarf/white dwarf binaries not known to be cataclysmic variables there is, nonetheless, significant mass transfer, perhaps in the form of a wind flowing off the red dwarf. As a by-product we find from the kinematics of GD 165 a likely age of more than 2 Gyr for its probable brown dwarf companion GD 165B.
Accretion, Accretion Disks - Comets: General - Stars: Abundances - Stars: White Dwarfs
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