Volume 643, November 2020
|Number of page(s)||17|
|Published online||13 November 2020|
Discovery of six new strongly magnetic white dwarfs in the 20 pc local population
Armagh Observatory and Planetarium,
BT61 9DG, UK
2 University of Western Ontario, Department of Physics & Astronomy, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada
Accepted: 2 October 2020
The sample of white dwarfs included in the local 20 pc volume documents, fairly accurately, the total production of white dwarfs over roughly 10 Gyr of stellar evolution in this part of the Milky Way Galaxy. In this sample, we have been systematically searching for magnetic white dwarfs. Here we report the discovery of six new magnetic white dwarfs, with a field strength from a few MG to about 200 MG. Two of these stars show H lines that are split and polarised by the magnetic field. One star shows extremely weak spectral lines in intensity, to which highly polarised narrow features correspond. The three other stars have featureless flux spectra, but show continuum polarisation. These new discoveries support the view that at least 20% of all white dwarfs in the local 20 pc volume have magnetic fields, and they fully confirm the suspicion that magnetism is a common rather than a rare characteristic of white dwarfs. We discuss the level and the handedness of the continuum polarisation in the presence of a magnetic field in cool white dwarfs. We suggest that a magnetic field with a 15 MG longitudinal component produces 1% of continuum circular polarisation. We have also shown that the problem of cross-talk from linear to circular polarisation of the FORS2 instrument, used in our survey, represents an obstacle to accurate measurements of the circular polarisation of faint white dwarfs when the background is illuminated, and polarised, by the moon.
Key words: polarization / white dwarfs / stars: magnetic field
© ESO 2020
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