EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 483, Number 1, May III 2008
Page(s) 231 - 237
Section Stellar structure and evolution
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20079260
Published online 19 March 2008

A&A 483, 231-237 (2008)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20079260

Low heat conduction in white dwarf boundary layers?

F. K. Liu1, F. Meyer2, E. Meyer-Hofmeister2, and V. Burwitz3

1  Astronomy Department, Peking University, Beijing 100871, PR China
    e-mail: fkliu@pku.edu.cn
2  Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik, Karl-Schwarzschildstr. 1, 85740 Garching, Germany
    e-mail: [frm;emm]@mpa-garching.mpg.de
3  Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, PO Box 1312, 85741 Garching, Germany
    e-mail: burwitz@mpe.mpg.de

(Received 17 December 2007 / Accepted 17 February 2008)

Context. X-ray spectra of dwarf novae in quiescence observed by Chandra and XMM-Newton provide new information on the boundary layers of their accreting white dwarfs.
Aims. Comparison of observations and models allows us to extract estimates for the thermal conductivity in the accretion layer and reach conclusions on the relevant physical processes.
Methods. We calculate the structure of the dense thermal boundary layer that forms under gravity and cooling at the white dwarf surface on accretion of gas from a hot tenuous ADAF-type coronal inflow. The distribution of density and temperature obtained allows us to calculate the strength and spectrum of the emitted X-ray radiation. They depend strongly on the values of thermal conductivity and mass accretion rate.
Results. We apply our model to the dwarf nova system VW Hyi and compare the spectra predicted for different values of the thermal conductivity with the observed spectrum. We find a significant deviation for all values of thermal conductivity that are a sizable fraction of the Spitzer conductivity. A good fit arises however for a conductivity of about 1% of the Spitzer value. This also seems to hold for other dwarf nova systems in quiescence. We compare this result with thermal conduction in other astrophysical situations.
Conclusions. The highly reduced thermal conductivity in the boundary layer requires magnetic fields perpendicular to the temperature gradient. Locating their origin in the accretion of magnetic fields from the hot ADAF-type coronal flow we find that dynamical effects of these fields will lead to a spatially intermittent, localized accretion geometry at the white dwarf surface.

Key words: stars: dwarf novae -- accretion, accretion disks -- X-rays: individuals: VW Hyi -- conduction -- magnetic fields -- galaxies: cooling flows

© ESO 2008