The Time-domain Spectroscopic Survey: Radial Velocity Variability in Dwarf Carbon Stars

Benjamin R. Roulston, Paul J. Green, John J. Ruan, Chelsea L. Macleod, Scott F. Anderson, Carles Badenes, Joel R. Brownstein, Donald P. Schneider, Keivan G. Stassun

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9 Scopus citations


Dwarf carbon (dC) stars (main-sequence stars showing carbon molecular bands) were initially thought to be an oxymoron because only asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars dredge carbon into their atmospheres. Mass transfer from a former AGB companion that has since faded to a white dwarf seems the most likely explanation. Indeed, a few types of giants known to show anomalous abundances - notably, the CH, Ba and CEMP-s stars - are known to have a high binary frequency. The dC stars may be the enhanced-abundance progenitors of most, if not all of these systems, but this requires demonstrating a high binary frequency for dCs. Here, for a sample of 240 dC stars targeted for repeat spectroscopy by the SDSS-IV's Time Domain Spectroscopic Survey, we analyze radial velocity (RV) variability to constrain the binary frequency and orbital properties. A handful of dC systems show large velocity variability (>100 km s-1). We compare the dCs to a control sample with a similar distribution of magnitude, color, proper motion, and parallax. Using Markov chain Monte Carlo methods, we use the measured ΔRV distribution to estimate the binary fraction and the separation distribution assuming both a unimodal and bimodal distribution. We find the dC stars have an enhanced binary fraction of 95%, consistent with them being products of mass transfer. These models result in mean separations of less than 1 au corresponding to periods on the order of 1 yr. Our results support the conclusion that dC stars form from close binary systems via mass transfer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 20 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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