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Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

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Observational tests of stellar and Galactic chemical evolution call for the joint knowledge of a star’s physical parameters, detailed element abundances, and precise age. For cool main-sequence (MS) stars the abundances of many elements can be measured from spectroscopy, but ages are very hard to determine. The situation is different if the MS star has a white dwarf (WD) companion and a known distance, as the age of such a binary system can then be determined precisely from the photometric properties of the cooling WD. As a pilot study for obtaining precise age determinations of field MS stars, we identify nearly one hundred candidate for such wide binary systems: a faint WD whose GPS1 proper motion matches that of a brighter MS star in Gaia/TGAS with a good parallax (σ$/$ ≤ 0.05). We model the WD’s multi-band photometry with the BASE-9 code using this precise distance (assumed to be common for the pair) and infer ages for each binary system. The resulting age estimates are precise to ≤ 10% (≤ 20%) for 42 (67) MS-WD systems. Our analysis more than doubles the number of MS-WD systems with precise distances known to date, and it boosts the number of such systems with precise age determination by an order of magnitude. With the advent of the Gaia DR2 data, this approach will be applicable to a far larger sample, providing ages for many MS stars (that can yield detailed abundances for over 20 elements), especially in the age range 2 to 8 Gyr, where there are only few known star clusters.

Publication Title

The Astronomical Journal


Institute of Physics

Grant or Award Name

National Science Foundation Award AST-1715718