Skip to main content

Recent Publications

10 most recent research publications

(ADS RSS feed)

ADS (authors="STEEGHS, D")
We present the discovery of SDSS J135154.46-064309.0, a short-period variable observed using 30-mincadence photometry in K2 Campaign 6. Follow-up spectroscopy and high-speed photometry support a classification as a new member of the rare class of ultracompact accreting binaries known as AM CVn stars. The spectroscopic orbital period of 15.65 ± 0.12 min makes this system the fourth-shortest-period AM CVn known, and the second system of this type to be discovered by the Kepler spacecraft. The K2 data show photometric periods at 15.7306 ± 0.0003 min, 16.1121 ± 0.0004 min, and 664.82 ± 0.06 min, which we identify as the orbital period, superhump period, and disc precession period, respectively. From the superhump and orbital periods we estimate the binary mass ratio q = M2/M1= 0.111 ± 0.005, though this method of mass ratio determination may not be well calibrated for helium-dominated binaries. This system is likely to be a bright foreground source of gravitational waves in the frequency range detectable by Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and may be of use as a calibration source if future studies are able to constrain the masses of its stellar components.
Ultracompact binaries with orbital periods less than a few hours will dominate the gravitational wave signal in the mHz regime. Until recently, 10 systems were expected have a predicted gravitational wave signal strong enough to be detectable by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), the so-called `verification binaries'. System parameters, including distances, are needed to provide an accurate prediction of the expected gravitational wave strength to be measured by LISA. Using parallaxes from Gaia Data Release 2 we calculate signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) for ≈50 verification binary candidates. We find that 11 binaries reach a SNR≥20, two further binaries reaching a SNR≥5 and three more systems are expected to have a SNR≈5 after four years integration with LISA. For these 16 systems we present predictions of the gravitational wave amplitude (A) and parameter uncertainties from Fisher information matrix on the amplitude (A) and inclination (ι).
Neutron stars in low-mass X-ray binaries are considered promising candidate sources of continuous gravitational-waves. These neutron stars are typically rotating many hundreds of times a second. The process of accretion can potentially generate and support non-axisymmetric distortions to the compact object, resulting in persistent emission of gravitational-waves. We present a study of existing optical spectroscopic data for Sco X-1, a prime target for continuous gravitational-wave searches, with the aim of providing revised constraints on key orbital parameters required for a directed search with advanced-LIGO data. From a circular orbit fit to an improved radial velocity curve of the Bowen emission components, we derived an updated orbital period and ephemeris. Centre of symmetry measurements from the Bowen Doppler tomogram yield a centre of the disc component of 90 km s-1, which we interpret as a revised upper limit to the projected orbital velocity of the NS K1. By implementing Monte Carlo binary parameter calculations, and imposing new limits on K1 and the rotational broadening, we obtained a complete set of dynamical system parameter constraints including a new range for K1 of 40-90 km s-1. Finally, we discussed the implications of the updated orbital parameters for future continuous-waves searches.
We present high speed optical photometric observations made using the NTT and ULTRACAM of the optical counterpart of 3XMMJ051034.6--670353, which was recently identified as an X-ray source showing a modulation on a period of 23.6 min. Although the optical counterpart is faint (g=21.4), we find that the u'g'r' light curves show a periodic modulation on a period which is consistent with the X-ray period. We also obtained three low resolution spectra of 3XMMJ051034.6--670353 using the Gemini South Telescope and GMOS. There is no evidence for strong emission lines in the optical spectrum of 3XMMJ051034.6--670353. We compare and contrast the optical and X-ray observations of 3XMMJ051034.6--670353 with the ultra compact binaries HM Cnc and V407 Vul. We find we can identify a distribution of binary masses in which stable direct impact accretion can occur.
AM CVn-type systems are ultracompact, hydrogen-deficient accreting binaries with degenerate or semidegenerate donors. The evolutionary history of these systems can be explored by constraining the properties of their donor stars. We present high-speed photometry of Gaia14aae, an AM CVn with a binary period of 49. 7 min and the first AM CVn in which the central white dwarf is fully eclipsed by the donor star. Modelling of the light curves of this system allows for the most precise measurement to date of the donor mass of an AM CVn, and relies only on geometric and well-tested physical assumptions. We find a mass ratio q = M2/M1 = 0.0287 ± 0.0020 and masses M1 = 0.87 ± 0.02 M and M2 = 0.0250 ± 0.0013 M. We compare these properties to the three proposed channels for AM CVn formation. Our measured donor mass and radius do not fit with the contraction that is predicted for AM CVn donors descended from white dwarfs or helium stars at long orbital periods. The donor properties we measure fall in a region of parameter space in which systems evolved from hydrogen-dominated cataclysmic variables are expected, but such systems should show spectroscopic hydrogen, which is not seen in Gaia14aae. The evolutionary history of this system is therefore not clear. We consider a helium-burning star or an evolved cataclysmic variable to be the most likely progenitors, but both models require additional processes and/or fine-tuning to fit the data. Additionally, we calculate an updated ephemeris which corrects for an anomalous time measurement in the previously published ephemeris.