White dwarf masses in cataclysmic variables
Instituto de Física y Astronomía, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de
2 Department of Astrophysics/IMAPP, Radboud University Nijmegen, PO Box 9010, 6500 GL Nijmegen, The Netherlands
3 ICM nucleus on protoplanetary disks, Universidad de Valparaíso, Av. Gran Bretaña 1111, Valparaíso, Chile
Received: 8 November 2013
Accepted: 8 March 2015
Context. The white dwarf (WD) mass distribution of cataclysmic variables (CVs) has recently been found to dramatically disagree with the predictions of the standard CV formation model. The high mean WD mass among CVs is not imprinted in the currently observed sample of CV progenitors and cannot be attributed to selection effects. Two possibilities have been put forward to solve this issue: either the WD grows in mass during CV evolution, or in a significant fraction of cases, CV formation is preceded by a (short) phase of thermal time-scale mass transfer (TTMT) in which the WD gains a sufficient amount of mass.
Aims. Here we investigate if and under which conditions a phase of TTMT before CV formation or mass growth in CVs can bring theoretical predictions and observations into agreement.
Methods. We employed binary population synthesis models using the binary_c/nucsyn code to simulate the present intrinsic CV population. To that end we incorporated aspects specific to CV evolution such as an appropriate mass-radius relation of the donor star and a more detailed prescription for the critical mass ratio for dynamically unstable mass transfer. We have also implemented a previously suggested wind from the surface of the WD during TTMT and tested the idea of WD mass growth during the CV phase by arbitrarily changing the accretion efficiency. We compare the model predictions of the TTMT and the mass growth model with the characteristics of CVs derived from observed samples.
Results. We find that mass growth of the WDs in CVs fails to reproduce the observed WD mass distribution. In the case of TTMT, we are able to produce a large number of massive WDs if we assume significant mass loss from the surface of the WD during the TTMT phase. However, the model still produces too many CVs with helium WDs. Moreover, the donor stars are evolved in many of these post-TTMT CVs, which contradicts the observations.
Conclusions. We conclude that in our current framework of CV evolution neither TTMT nor WD mass growth can fully explain either the observed WD mass or the period distribution in CVs.
Key words: accretion, accretion disks / instabilities / novae, cataclysmic variables / binaries: close
© ESO, 2015