EDP Sciences
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Volume 382, Number 1, January IV 2002
Page(s) 124 - 129
Section Formation, structure and evolution of stars
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011627

A&A 382, 124-129 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011627

Implications of the HST/FGS parallax of SS Cygni on the disc instability model

M. R. Schreiber1, 2 and B. T. Gänsicke1

1  Universitäts-Sternwarte, Geismarlandstr. 11, 37083 Göttingen, Germany
2  Department of Astronomy, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7700, Cape Town, South Africa

(Received 2 November 2001 / Accepted 6 November 2001)

We analyse the consequences of the recently measured parallax of SS Cygni (Harrison et al. 1999) on the accretion disc limit cycle model. Using the observed long term light curve of SS Cyg and $d=166\pm12\,\mathrm{pc}$, we obtain for the mean mass transfer rate $\overline{\dot{M}}_{\mathrm{tr}} =
4.2\pm 1.7\times 10^{17}\,\mathrm{g\,s^{-1}}$ . In addition, we calculate the vertical structure of the accretion disc taking into account heating of the outer disc by the stream impact. Comparing the mean accretion rate derived from the observations with the calculated critical mass transfer rate, we find that the disc instability model disagrees with the observed long term light curve of SS Cyg as $\overline{\dot{M}}_{\mathrm{tr}}$ is greater or similar to the critical mass transfer rate. The failure of the model indicated by this result can be confirmed by considering that the accretion rate at the onset of the decline should be exactly equal to the value critical for stability. In contrast to this prediction of the model, we find that the accretion rate required to explain the observed visual magnitude at the onset of the decline must be significantly higher than the critical mass transfer rate. Our results strongly suggest that either the usually assumed temperature dependence of the viscosity parameter $\alpha$ is not a realistic description of the disc viscosity, that the mass transfer rate in SS Cyg noticeably increases during the outbursts or, finally, that the HST distance of $166\pm12$ pc, is too high.

Key words: accretion, accretion discs -- binaries: close -- stars: individual: SS Cygni -- novae, cataclysmic variables

Offprint request: M. R. Schreiber, mschrei@uni-sw.gwdg.de

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