The age, life expectancy, and space density of Post Common Envelope Binaries
Université Louis Pasteur, Observatoire de Strasbourg, 11 rue de l'Université, 67000 Strasbourg, France
2 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ, UK
Corresponding author: M. R. Schreiber, email@example.com
Accepted: 26 May 2003
We present a sample of 30 well observed Post Common Envelope Binaries (PCEBs). Deriving the cooling age of the white dwarfs, we show that the PCEB population is dominated by young systems. Having calculated the orbital evolution of the systems under the assumption of two different prescriptions for the angular momentum loss, we find that most of the systems have not yet completed a significant fraction of their PCEB life time. We therefore predict the existence of a large population of old PCEBs containing cold white dwarfs ( K). Our calculations show that nearly half of the PCEBs in our sample will evolve into a semi-detached configuration and start mass transfer in less than the Hubble-time. These systems are thus representative for progenitors of the current CV population. Only one of them (V471 Tau) will evolve into a long-period (Porb h) CV, and a significant fraction of the systems will start mass transfer in the period gap. Having estimated the distances of the PCEBs in the sample, we derive a space density of pc-3, depending on the assumed angular momentum loss prescription. Taking into account the evolutionary time scales we compute a lower limit for the CV space density, predicted by the currently known PCEB population of pc-3. Finally, we discuss possible observational selection effects and conclude that the observed PCEB population is probably highly incomplete.
Key words: accretion, accretion discs / stars: binaries: close / stars: novae, cataclysmic variables
© ESO, 2003