G. Fontaine

Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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Publications (440)1367.03 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: As part of a multifaceted effort to better exploit the asteroseismological potential of the pulsating sdB star Feige 48, we present an improved spectroscopic analysis of that star based on new grids of NLTE, fully line-blanketed model atmospheres. To that end, we gathered four high signal-to-noise ratio time-averaged optical spectra of varying spectral resolutions from 1.0 Å to 8.7 Å, and we made use of the results of four independent studies to fix the abundances of the most important metals in the atmosphere of Feige 48. The mean atmospheric parameters we obtained from our four spectra of Feige 48 are: T eff = 29,850 ± 60 K, log g = 5.46 ± 0.01, and log N(He)/N(H) = –2.88 ± 0.02. We also modeled, for the first time, the He II line at 1640 Å from the STIS archive spectrum of the star, and with this line we found an effective temperature and a surface gravity that match well with the values obtained with the optical data. With some fine tuning of the abundances of the metals visible in the optical domain, we were able to achieve a very good agreement between our best available spectrum and our best-fitting synthetic one. Our derived atmospheric parameters for Feige 48 are in rather good agreement with previous estimates based on less sophisticated models. This underlines the relatively small effects of the NLTE approach combined with line blanketing in the atmosphere of this particular star, implying that the current estimates of the atmospheric parameters of Feige 48 are reliable and secure.
    The Astrophysical Journal 05/2014; 788(1):65. · 6.73 Impact Factor
  • 03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Detailed seismic studies of hot B subdwarf (sdB) stars using the forward modeling approach provide measurements of their fundamental parameters at very interesting precisions. For instance, masses, radii, and log g values derived this way are typically claimed at ̃1-2%, ̃0.5%, and ̃ 0.1 % precision, respectively. However, this method relies on still imperfect stellar models that contains various uncertainties associated with their inner structure and the underlying microphysics. A signature of these imperfections is the inability of current best-fit seismic models to reproduce all the observed oscillation frequencies at the precision of the observations. Therefore, the question of the accuracy (as opposed to the precision) of the derived parameters obtained from this approach is legitimate. Here, we revisit the question of precision and accuracy based on new, third generation, complete static models of sdB stars developed for asteroseismology and applied to the case of the eclipsing system PG 1336-018. This allows us to evaluate the reliability of the method and quantify the impact of various uncertainties in the stellar models on the derived stellar parameters. Finally, we discuss the intrinsic potential of asteroseismology for precise measurements of stellar parameters and show that we are far from having fully exploited this technique in terms of precision that can, in principle, be achieved.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present several examples of partial mode identification for rapidly pulsating subdwarf B stars on the basis of multi-colour observations. Three targets (V391 Per, Balloon 090100001, and EC 11583-2708) were analysed from multi-colour photometry, while studies were conducted from time-series spectrophotometry for two further stars (EC 20338-1925 and EC 01541-1409). In all cases, periodicities strongly dominating the frequency spectrum are associated with radial modes, indicating a clear hierarchy according to visibility when integrating over the visible disk of the star.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We report on our preliminary determination of the atmospheric He abundance pattern in hot subdwarf stars on the basis of a highly homogeneous approach using a large sample of spectra. Our survey covers the domain 4.5 ≤ log g ≤ 6.5, 20,000 ≤ Teff ≤ 75,000 K, and -6 ≤ log He/H ≤ +4. That pattern is both complex and fascinating.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present the preliminary seismic modeling of one of the hottest and most compact subdwarf pulsators, PB 8783 (EO Ceti). This is a well observed hot subdwarf star, including a 78 d campaign in white light photometry that we carried out at Mount Bigelow, Arizona, during the fall 2007. PB 8783 has also been observed at length in spectroscopy, revealing a spectrum highly contaminated by a main sequence companion. It is extremely difficult to disentangle the contribution of the two components and, as a consequence of this, the exact nature of the hot subdwarf (sdB or sdO star) is undetermined. We propose here to test the two hypotheses by asteroseismology. Although the sdB possibility cannot be excluded, the pulsation modes observed in PB 8783 are much better accommodated in the case of an sdO star.
    03/2014;
  • N. Giammichele, G. Fontaine, P. Brassard
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    ABSTRACT: We present a progress report on the detailed asteroseismological analysis of the pulsating white dwarf R548 with the use of the forward method. ZZ Ceti variables are nonradially g-mode pulsating white dwarfs with a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. The low-amplitude and "simple" pulsator R548 is an ideal candidate for carrying on a complete asteroseismological analysis as five independent frequencies are unequivocally singled out. Using the successful double-optimization technique that has been applied and refined on pulsating hot B subdwarfs for more than a decade, we are capable of unraveling global structural parameters. Taking advantage of independent measurements of spectroscopic temperature and surface gravity, we investigate the constraints on the envelope layering and the bulk composition of the core of R548.
    03/2014;
  • P. Brassard, G. Fontaine
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    ABSTRACT: We are currently working on the fourth generation of our codes for building evolutionary and static models of hot subdwarf and white dwarf stars. One of the improvements of these codes consists in an update of all the microphysics involved in the computations. As part of our efforts, we have taken a look at possible improvements for the diffusion coefficients. Since the publication of the widely used diffusion coefficients of Paquette et al. (1986), the number-crunching power of computers has immensely increased, allowing more accurate computations of the triple collision integrals. We have thus produced new tables of diffusion coefficients with higher accuracy and higher resolution than before, of general use in stellar astrophysics.
    03/2014;
  • E. Green, C. O'Connell, G. Fontaine
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    ABSTRACT: In a followup to Östensen et al.'s (2012) discovery of the first g-mode pulsator found on the classical blue horizontal branch (BHB), we present atmospheric parameters for ten blue field stars known to have similar effective temperatures and gravities, plus radial velocities for seven of them, as a first step towards investigating the overall properties of these stars. All of the field BHB tip stars have temperatures and gravities that place them in a narrow region below the main sequence and above the gap separating them from the hotter and more compact sdB stars. Interestingly, half of the ten BHB tip stars exhibit higher metallicities and greater than solar He abundances similar to, although not quite as high as, the BHB pulsator KIC 1718290, while the other half have much lower metallicities and He abundances, more typical of those observed in sdB stars. RV's determined from five or more MMT spectra each for KIC 1718290 and seven of the other BHB tip stars show that none exhibit significant RV variations at the 2 to 3 km s-1 level on time scales shorter than a day or two; the variations were no larger for two stars reobserved after an interval of two months nor for one star that was observed over two years. Such velocity variations are comparable to those we have measured previously for sdB stars with MS companions, several of which are now known to have orbital periods of the order of a couple of years. The magnitudes and galactic latitudes of the stars in our BHB tip sample are consistent with membership in the galactic disk, rather than the halo.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the formation of sdB stars is one of the remaining challenges of stellar evolution theory. Competing scenarios have been proposed to account for the existence of such evolved objects. They give quite different mass distributions for resulting sdB stars. Detailed asteroseismic analyses, including mass estimates, of 15 pulsating hot B subdwarfs have been published in the past decade. Masses have also been reliably determined by light curve modeling and spectroscopy for 7 sdB components of eclipsing or reflection binaries. We present here the empirical mass distribution of sdB stars on the basis of these samples. Implications are also briefly discussed.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present a detailed analysis of the UV spectrum of the calibration star BD+28°4211 using high-quality spectra obtained with the HST and FUSE satellites. To this aim, we compare quantitatively the observed data with model spectra obtained from state-of-the-art non-LTE metal line-blanketed model atmospheres and synthetic spectra calculated with TLUSTY and SYNSPEC. We thus determine in a self-consistent way the abundances of 11 elements with well-defined lines in the UV. The derived abundances range from about solar to 1/10 solar and the overall quality of the derived spectral fits is very satisfying. Our analysis can be used to constrain rather tightly the effective temperature of BD+28°4211 to a value of Teff = 82,000±5000 K. We also estimate conservatively that its surface gravity falls in the range log g = 6.2-0.1+0.3. Assuming that the Hipparcos measurement for BD+28°4211 is fully reliable and that our model atmospheres are reasonably realistic, we can reconcile our spectroscopic constraints with the available parallax measurement only if the mass of BD+28°4211 is significantly less than the canonical value of 0.5 M☉ for a representative post-EHB star.
    03/2014;
  • P. Brassard, G. Fontaine
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    ABSTRACT: We have developed a new algorithm that solves the problem of the objective assignation of N observed periods to theoretical periods obtained from numerical models. The solution of this problem is an important part of our general forward approach used for hot subdwarf and white dwarf seismology. The resulting algorithm is highly effective: with an overall time complexity of O(N2), at most 2*N evaluations of the goodness-of-fit function are needed to find the optimal solution of the problem.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Compared to subdwarf B (sdB) stars, the evolutionary channels that produce subdwarf O (sdO) stars are not at all well understood. Various theories have been advanced to explain the existence of sdO stars and account for their observed properties. Masses of sdO stars are mostly unknown, because there seem to be very few sdO counterparts to the short-period binaries that are common among sdB stars and because none of the handful of known sdO pulsators are useful candidates for asteroseismic investigations. During a recent (negative) search for bright field counterparts of the rapid sdO pulsators in Omega Cen, we noticed that our precision light curves for many sdO stars sometimes exhibited very small, irregular variations on time scales of several minutes to several tens of minutes. Although the significance of the weakest variations is uncertain, repeated observations for two of these stars, one helium-rich sdO, PG 1427+196, and another helium-poor sdO, PG 1610+519, caught them unexpectedly dropping in luminosity by up to 0.05-0.10 mag for at least a couple of hours, during which their light flickered irregularly in a manner reminiscent of the light from accretion disks in cataclysmic variables. A similar luminosity decrease and flickering was observed in a helium-rich sdB binary, PG 1544+488. The light curves for these three stars suggest the presence of accretion disks analogous to those in in VY Scl stars. The small luminosity variations we observed in a number of other sdO stars indicate that they too could occasionally be capable of similar larger luminosity variations, and thus accretion disks might be associated with a significant number of sdO stars. However, the structure of such sdO systems is not at all clear.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Long period B subdwarf (sdB) pulsators, when observed from space with the satellites CoRoT and Kepler, show particularly rich g-mode oscillation spectra with often hundreds of frequencies. In many of these pulsation spectra, regularities in the observed period distributions typical of high order g-modes in chemically homogeneous stars have been reported. This led to a claim that sdB stars could be much less chemically stratified than previously thought. In this paper, we show that such an interpretation is unfounded. We reinvestigate trapping effects on g-modes in sdB stars in view of current observations and show that "standard" stratified models can also produce nearly quasi-constant period spacings in the low frequency range which are comparable to those observed in the g-mode spectra of these stars.
    03/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We present an analysis of time-resolved spectrophotometry gathered with FORS/VLT for the rapidly pulsating hot B subdwarf EC 01541-1409 with the aim of identifying the degree index ℓ of the larger amplitude modes. This mode identification can be extremely useful in detailed searches for viable asteroseismic models in parameter space, and can be crucial for testing the validity of a solution a posteriori. To achieve it, we exploit the ℓ-dependence of the monochromatic amplitude, phase, and velocity-to-amplitude ratio of a mode as a function of wavelength. We use the ℓ-sensitive phase lag between the flux perturbation and the radial velocity as an additional diagnostic tool. On this basis, we are able to unambiguously identify the dominant 140.5 s pulsation of our target as a radial mode, and the second-highest amplitude periodicity at 145.8 s as an ℓ = 2 mode. We further exploit the exceptionally high-sensitivity data that we gathered for the dominant mode to infer modal properties that are usually quite difficult to estimate in sdB pulsators, namely the physical values of the dimensionless radius, temperature, and surface gravity perturbations.Based on observations collected at the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, Chile (proposal ID 087.D-0047).Appendix A is available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
    02/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We first present a brief description of the six distinct families of pulsating white dwarfs that are now known. These are all opacity-driven pulsators showing low- to mid-order, low-degree gravity modes. We then discuss some recent highlights that have come up in the field of white dwarf asteroseismology.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Asteroseismic modeling of subdwarf B (sdB) stars provides measurements of their fundamental parameters with a very good precision; in particular, the masses and radii determined from asteroseismology are found to typically reach a precision of 1% containing various uncertainties associated with their inner structure and the underlying microphysics (composition and transition zones profiles, nuclear reaction rates, etc.). Therefore, the question of the accuracy of the stellar parameters derived by asteroseismology is legitimate. We present here the seismic modeling of the pulsating sdB star in the eclipsing binary PG 1336-018, for which the mass and the radius are independently and precisely known from the modeling of the reflection/irradiation effect and the eclipses observed in the light curve. This allows us to quantitatively evaluate the reliability of the seismic method and test the impact of uncertainties in our stellar models on the derived parameters. We conclude that the sdB star parameters inferred from asteroseismology are precise, accurate, and robust against model uncertainties.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We explore quantitatively the low but sufficient sensitivity of oscillation modes to probe both the core composition and the details of the chemical stratification of pulsating white dwarfs. Until recently, applications of asteroseismic methods to pulsating white dwarfs have been far and few, and have generally suffered from an insufficient exploration of parameter space. To remedy this situation, we apply to white dwarfs the same double-optimization technique that has been used quite successfully in the context of pulsating hot B subdwarfs. Based on the frequency spectrum of the pulsating white dwarf R548, we are able to unravel in a robust way the unique onion-like stratification and the chemical composition of the star. Independent confirmations from both spectroscopic analyses and detailed evolutionary calculations including diffusion provide crucial consistency checks and add to the credibility of the inferred seismic model. More importantly, these results boost our confidence in the reliability of the forward method for sounding white dwarf internal structure with asteroseismology.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Hot B subdwarfs (sdB) are hot and compact helium core burning stars of nearly half a solar mass that can develop pulsational instabilities driving acoustic and/or gravity modes. These evolved stars are expected to be chemically stratified with an almost pure hydrogen envelope surrounding a helium mantle on top of a carbon/oxygen enriched core. However, the sdB stars pulsating in g-modes show regularities in their observed period distributions that, surprisingly (at first sight), are typical of the behavior of high order g-modes in chemically homogeneous (i.e., non-stratified) stars. This led to a claim that hot B subdwarfs could be much less chemically stratified than previously thought. Here, we reinvestigate trapping effects affecting g-modes in sdB stars. We show that standard stratified models of such stars can also produce nearly constant period spacings in the low frequency range similar to those found in g-mode spectra of sdB stars monitored with Kepler.
    01/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: We briefly introduce hot subdwarfs and their evolutionary status before discussing the different types of known pulsators in more detail. Currently, at least six apparently distinct types of variable are known among hot subdwarfs, encompassing p- as well as g-mode pulsators and objects in the Galactic field as well as in globular clusters. Most of the oscillations detected can be explained in terms of an iron opacity mechanism, and quantitative asteroseismology has been very successful for some of the pulsators. In addition to helping constrain possible evolutionary scenarios, studies focussing on stellar pulsations have also been used to infer planets and characterize the rotation of the host star.
    01/2014;

Publication Stats

5k Citations
1,367.03 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1970–2014
    • Université de Montréal
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  • 1979–2013
    • Université du Québec à Montréal
      • Department of Music
      Montréal, Quebec, Canada
    • The University of Western Ontario
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      London, Ontario, Canada
  • 2012
    • Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS)
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
  • 2010
    • University of Tuebingen
      • Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics
      Tübingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
  • 2009
    • French National Centre for Scientific Research
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 1982–2009
    • The University of Arizona
      • Department of Astronomy
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2006
    • Johns Hopkins University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • 1991–1998
    • Iowa State University
      • Department of Physics and Astronomy
      Ames, Iowa, United States
  • 1993
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Space Sciences Laboratory
      Berkeley, California, United States
  • 1992
    • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
      Ciudad de México, The Federal District, Mexico
  • 1984–1992
    • Dartmouth College
      Hanover, New Hampshire, United States
  • 1990
    • Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
      • Instituto de Física
      Porto Alegre, Estado do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil