Astrophysical Implications of a New Dynamical Mass for the Nearby White Dwarf 40 Eridani B

Howard E. Bond, P. Bergeron, A. Bédard

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The bright, nearby DA-type white dwarf (WD) 40 Eridani B is orbited by the M dwarf 40 Eri C, allowing determination of the WD's mass. Until recently, however, the mass depended on orbital elements determined four decades ago, and that mass was so low that it created several astrophysical puzzles. Using new astrometric measurements, the binary-star group at the U.S. Naval Observatory has revised the dynamical mass upward, to 0.573 ±0.018 M. In this paper, we use model-atmosphere analysis to update other parameters of the WD, including effective temperature, surface gravity, radius, and luminosity. We then compare these results with WD interior models. Within the observational uncertainties, theoretical cooling tracks for CO-core WDs of its measured mass are consistent with the position of 40 Eri B in the H-R diagram; equivalently, the theoretical mass-radius relation (MRR) is consistent with the star's location in the mass-radius plane. This consistency is, however, achieved only if we assume a "thin" outer hydrogen layer, with q H = M H/M WD ≃ 10-10. We discuss other evidence that a significant fraction of DA WDs have such thin H layers, in spite of the expectation from canonical stellar-evolution theory of "thick" H layers with q H ≃ 10-4. The cooling age of 40 Eri B is ∼122 Myr, and its total age is ∼1.8 Gyr. We present the MRRs for 40 Eri B and three other nearby WDs in visual binaries with precise mass determinations, and show that the agreement of current theory with observations is excellent in all cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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