Variability in Hot Carbon-Dominated Atmosphere (hot DQ) White Dwarfs: Rapid Rotation?

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The Astrophysical Journal

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Hot white dwarfs with carbon-dominated atmospheres (hot DQs) are a cryptic class of white dwarfs. In addition to their deficiency of hydrogen and helium, most of these stars are highly magnetic, and a large fraction vary in luminosity. This variability has been ascribed to nonradial pulsations, but increasing data call this explanation into question. We present studies of short-term variability in seven hot DQ white dwarfs. Three (SDSS J1426+5752, SDSS J2200-0741, and SDSS J2348-0942) were known to be variable. Their photometric modulations are coherent over at least two years, and we find no evidence for variability at frequencies that are not harmonics. We present the first time-series photometry for three additional hot DQs (SDSS J0236-0734, SDSS J1402+3818, and SDSS J1615+4543); none are observed to vary, but the signal-to-noise is low. Finally, we present high speed photometry for SDSS J0005-1002, known to exhibit a 2.1 d photometric variation; we do not observe any short-term variability. Monoperiodicity is rare among pulsating white dwarfs, so we contemplate whether the photometric variability is due to rotation rather than pulsations; similar hypotheses have been raised by other researchers. If the variability is due to rotation, then hot DQ white dwarfs as a class contain many rapid rotators. Given the lack of companions to these stars, the origin of any fast rotation is unclear -- both massive progenitor stars and double degenerate merger remnants are possibilities. We end with suggestions on future work that would best clarify the nature of these rare, intriguing objects.


Physics and Astronomy










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