The unbiased frequency of planetary signatures around single and binary white dwarfs using ${\it Spitzer}$ and ${\it Hubble}$

11 Apr 2019  ·  Wilson Thomas G., Farihi Jay, Gänsicke Boris T., Swan Andrew ·

This paper presents combined ${\it Spitzer}$ IRAC and ${\it Hubble}$ COS results for a double-blind survey of 195 single and 22 wide binary white dwarfs for infrared excesses and atmospheric metals. The selection criteria include cooling ages in the range 9 to 300 Myr, and hydrogen-rich atmospheres so that the presence of atmospheric metals can be confidently linked to ongoing accretion from a circumstellar disc... The entire sample has infrared photometry, whereas 168 targets have corresponding ultraviolet spectra. Three stars with infrared excesses due to debris discs are recovered, yielding a nominal frequency of $1.5_{-0.5}^{+1.5}$ per cent, while in stark contrast, the fraction of stars with atmospheric metals is $45\pm4$ per cent. Thus, only one out of 30 polluted white dwarfs exhibits an infrared excess at 3-4 $\mu$m in IRAC photometry, which reinforces the fact that atmospheric metal pollution is the most sensitive tracer of white dwarf planetary systems. The corresponding fraction of infrared excesses around white dwarfs with wide binary companions is consistent with zero, using both the infrared survey data and an independent assessment of potential binarity for well-established dusty and polluted stars. In contrast, the frequency of atmospheric pollution among the targets in wide binaries is indistinct from apparently single stars, and moreover the multiplicity of polluted white dwarfs in a complete and volume-limited sample is the same as for field stars. Therefore, it appears that the delivery of planetesimal material onto white dwarfs is ultimately not driven by stellar companions, but by the dynamics of planetary bodies. read more

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Earth and Planetary Astrophysics Solar and Stellar Astrophysics