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10 most recent research publications

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ADS (authors="STEEGHS, D")
We report optical and infrared observations of the X-ray source CXOGBS J174623.5-310550. This Galactic object was identified as a potential quiescent low-mass X-ray binary accreting from an M-type donor on the basis of optical spectroscopy and the broad H α emission line. The analysis of X-shooter spectroscopy covering three consecutive nights supports an M2/3-type spectral classification. Neither radial velocity variations nor rotational broadening is detected in the photospheric lines. No periodic variability is found in I- and r'-band light curves. We derive r' = 20.8, I = 19.2, and Ks ≈ 16.6 for the optical and infrared counterparts with the M-type star contributing {≈ }90{{ per cent}} to the I-band light. We estimate its distance to be 1.3-1.8 kpc. The lack of radial velocity variations implies that the M-type star is not the donor star in the X-ray binary. This could be an interloper or the outer body in a hierarchical triple. We constrain the accreting binary to be a ≲2.2 h orbital period eclipsing cataclysmic variable or a low-mass X-ray binary lying in the foreground of the Galactic bulge.
The intermediate polar FO Aquarii has been observed to fade at optical wavelengths over the last 10 days (see the attached light curve). Observations taken using the pt5m telescope (V band), the Gravitational Optical Transient Observatory (GOTO; L band covering 400-700 nm), the All-Sky Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN; Shappee et al. 2014; Kochanek et al. 2017; g band), and the Remote Observatory Atacama Desert (ROAD; V band) all show that FO Aquarii is currently fainter than its typical high state magnitude in these bands.
We report on a detailed optical spectroscopic follow-up of the black hole transient MAXI J1820+070 (ASASSN-18ey). The observations cover the main part of the X-ray binary outburst, when the source alternated between hard and soft states following the classical pattern widely seen in other systems. We focus the analysis on the He I emission lines at 5876 and 6678 Angs, as well as on Halpha. We detect clear accretion disk wind features (P-Cyg profiles and broad emission line wings) in the hard state, both during outburst rise and decay. These are not witnessed during the several months long soft state. However, our data suggest that the visibility of the outflow might be significantly affected by the ionisation state of the accretion disk. The terminal velocity of the wind is above ~ 1200 km/s, which is similar to outflow velocities derived from (hard-state) optical winds and (soft-state) X-ray winds in other systems. The wind signatures, in particular the P-Cyg profiles, are very shallow, and their detection has only been possible thanks to a combination of source brightness and intense monitoring at very high signal-to-noise. This study indicates that cold, optical winds are most likely a common feature of black hole accretion, and therefore, that wind-like outflows are a general mechanism of mass and angular momentum removal operating throughout the entire X-ray binary outburst.
AM CVn binaries are a class of ultracompact, hydrogen-deficient binaries, each consisting of a white dwarf accreting helium-dominated material from a degenerate or semi-degenerate donor star. Of the 56 known systems, only Gaia14aae undergoes complete eclipses of its central white dwarf, allowing the parameters of its stellar components to be tightly constrained. Here, we present phase-resolved optical spectroscopy of Gaia14aae. We use the spectra to test the assumption that the narrow emission feature known as the `central spike' traces the motion of the central white dwarf. We measure a central spike velocity amplitude of 13.8 ± 3.2 km s-1, which agrees at the 1σ level with the predicted value of 17.6 ± 1.0 km s-1 based on eclipse-derived system parameters. The orbital phase offset of the central spike from its expected position is 4 ± 15°, consistent with 0°. Doppler maps of the He I lines in Gaia14aae show two accretion disc bright-spots, as seen in many AM CVn systems. The formation mechanism for the second spot remains unclear. We detect no hydrogen in the system, but we estimate a 3σ limit on H α emission with an equivalent width of -1.14 Å. Our detection of nitrogen and oxygen with no corresponding detection of carbon, in conjunction with evidence from recent studies, mildly favours a formation channel in which Gaia14aae is descended from a cataclysmic variable with a significantly evolved donor.
In this white paper we stressed the importance of ultraviolet (high- resolution) and optical (low- and high-) spectroscopy to understand of evolution of close binaries that contain white dwarfs which lead to a variety of outcomes.