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Daytona Beach


Physical Sciences

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Metals in the photospheres of white dwarfs with Teff between 12,000 and 25,000 K should gravitationally settle out of these atmospheres in 1 ̶ 2 weeks. Temporal variations in the line strengths of these metals could provide a direct measurement of episodic metal accretion. Using archival VLT and Keck spectroscopy, we find evidence that the DAZd white dwarf G29-38 shows significant changes in its Ca П K line strength. At the two best-observed epochs, we find that the Ca line equivalent width (EW) = 165 ̶ 4 mǺ (in 1996.885) and 280 ± 8 mǺ (in 1999.653), which is an increase of 70%. We consider the effect that pulsation has on the Ca EWs for this known variable star, and find that it adds an error of <1 >mǺ to these measurements. Calcium line strengths at other observational epochs support variations with timescales as short as 2 weeks. These Ca EW variations indicate that the metal accretion process inG29-38, presumably from its debris disk, is episodic on timescales of a few weeks or less, and thus, the accretion is not dominated by Poynting-Robertson drag from an optically thin, continuous disk, which has a timescale of ̴1 yr.

Publication Title

The Astrophysical Journal


Institute of Physics Publishing, Inc.

Additional Information

Dr. von Hippel was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this paper was published.