Beyond its goals related to the extragalactic universe, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is an effective tool for identifying stellar objects with unusual spectral energy distributions. Here we report on the 53 new magnetic white dwarfs discovered during the first two years of the survey, including 38 whose data are made public in the 1500 deg2 First Data Release. Discoveries span the magnitude range 16.3 ≤ g ≤ 20.5, and based on the recovery rate for previously known magnetic white dwarfs, the completeness of the SDSS appears to be high for reasonably hot stars with B ≳ 3 MG and g ≳ 15. The new objects nearly double the total number of known magnetic white dwarfs and include examples with polar field strengths Bp > 500 MG, as well as several with exotic atmospheric compositions. The improved sample statistics and uniformity indicate that the distribution of magnetic white dwarfs has a broad peak in the range ∼5-30 MG and a tail extending to nearly 109 G. Degenerates with polar fields Bp ≳ 50 MG are consistent with being descendents of magnetic Ap/Bp main-sequence stars, but low- and moderate-field magnetic white dwarfs appear to imply another origin. Yet-undetected magnetic F-type stars with convective envelopes that destroy the ordered underlying field are attractive candidates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science