UC San Diego
Probing the Nature of Cataclysmic Variables via Photometric Studies on Multiple Timescales /
- Author(s): Armstrong, Eve
- et al.
I examine the structure and evolution of hydrogen- and helium-rich cataclysmic variables (CVs), via their periodic variability captured by long-term time series photometry. Studies to be discussed address one of two sets of question. One set pertains to helium CVs, which are poorly understood relative to their hydrogen-rich counterparts: What is the long-term evolution - in terms of orbital period (Porb) - of He CVs, and what does this imply about the nature of their secondaries? Two methods of investigation are employed : i) using systems with positive superhump and orbital period detections (Chapter 3) in order to chart the distribution of Porb versus time for He CVs (Chapter 4); ii) direct pulse timing of Porb in one system, via an 18-year baseline of photometry (Chapter 5). Results of the first study indicate that helium CVs are evolving toward longer Porb and have secondaries that are well described as degenerate objects. The pulse timing of one object (and the same measurement in two other He CVs) shows no evidence for Porb lengthening, and is consistent with Porb shortening driven by angular momentum loss via gravitational wave radiation. Technically, the two results are not inconsistent, as AM CVn is the only point on the distribution with a Porb timing. The apparent contradiction, however, illuminates our poor understanding of this class of CV : their routes to birth and the range of paths that a star can take following core hydrogen burning. The second set of studies pertains to signals associated with the accretion disc : Can a CV's accretion disc tilt with respect to the orbital plane? And what is the geometry and behavior of matter at various annuli in a tilted disc? To this end, I examine orbital sideband signals in AM CVn (Chapter 6) and simultaneous orbital sidebands and superorbital signals in two hydrogen CVs (Chapter 7). I also tabulate, from the literature, ten additional CVs with reliable detections of these signals (Chapter 7). All results indicate that the mechanism of tilt is at work in these objects