E. Breedt

The University of Warwick, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (49)230.68 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery of 42 white dwarfs in the original Kepler mission field, including nine new confirmed pulsating hydrogen-atmosphere white dwarfs (ZZ Ceti stars). Guided by the Kepler-INT Survey (KIS), we selected white dwarf candidates on the basis of their U-g, g-r, and r-H_alpha photometric colours. We followed up these candidates with high-signal-to-noise optical spectroscopy from the 4.2-m William Herschel Telescope. Using ground-based, time-series photometry, we put our sample of new spectroscopically characterized white dwarfs in the context of the empirical ZZ Ceti instability strip. Prior to our search, only two pulsating white dwarfs had been observed by Kepler. Ultimately, four of our new ZZ Cetis were observed from space. These rich datasets are helping initiate a rapid advancement in the asteroseismic investigation of pulsating white dwarfs, which continues with the extended Kepler mission, K2.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016
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    ABSTRACT: Debris discs which orbit white dwarfs are signatures of remnant planetary systems. We present 12 yr of optical spectroscopy of the metal-polluted white dwarf SDSS J1228+1040, which shows a steady variation in the morphology of the 8600 Å Ca ii triplet line profiles from the gaseous component of its debris disc. We identify additional emission lines of O i, Mg i, Mg ii, Fe ii and Ca ii in the deep co-added spectra. These emission features (including Ca H & K) exhibit a wide range in strength and morphology with respect to each other and to the Ca ii triplet, indicating different intensity distributions of these ionic species within the disc. Using Doppler tomography, we show that the evolution of the Ca ii triplet profile can be interpreted as the precession of a fixed emission pattern with a period in the range 24–30 yr. The Ca ii line profiles vary on time-scales that are broadly consistent with general relativistic precession of the debris disc.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We report the discovery and characterisation of a deeply eclipsing AM CVn-system, Gaia14aae (= ASSASN-14cn). Gaia14aae was identified independently by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN; Shappee et al. 2014) and by the Gaia Science Alerts project, during two separate outbursts. A third outburst is seen in archival Pan-STARRS-1 (PS1; Schlafly et al. 2012; Tonry et al. 2012; Magnier et al. 2013) and ASAS-SN data. Spectroscopy reveals a hot, hydrogen-deficient spectrum with clear double-peaked emission lines, consistent with an accreting double degenerate classification. We use follow-up photometry to constrain the orbital parameters of the system. We find an orbital period of 49.71 min, which places Gaia14aae at the long period extremum of the outbursting AM CVn period distribution. Gaia14aae is dominated by the light from its accreting white dwarf. Assuming an orbital inclination of 90 degrees for the binary system, the contact phases of the white dwarf lead to lower limits of 0.78 M solar and 0.015 M solar on the masses of the accretor and donor respectively and a lower limit on the mass ratio of 0.019. Gaia14aae is only the third eclipsing AM CVn star known, and the first in which the WD is totally eclipsed. Using a helium WD model, we estimate the accretor's effective temperature to be 12900+-200 K. The three out-burst events occurred within 4 months of each other, while no other outburst activity is seen in the previous 8 years of Catalina Real-time Transient Survey (CRTS; Drake et al. 2009), Pan-STARRS-1 and ASAS-SN data. This suggests that these events might be rebrightenings of the first outburst rather than individual events.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present a detailed study of the metal-polluted DB white dwarf SDSS J0845+2257 (Ton 345). Using high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope/Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Very Large Telescope spectroscopy, we have detected hydrogen and 11 metals in the atmosphere of the white dwarf. The origin of these metals is almost certainly the circumstellar disc of dusty and gaseous debris from a tidally disrupted planetesimal, accreting at a rate of 1.6 × 1010 g s−1. Studying the chemical abundances of the accreted material demonstrates that the planetesimal had a composition similar to the Earth, dominated by rocky silicates and metallic iron, with a low water content. The mass of metals within the convection zone of the white dwarf corresponds to an asteroid of at least ∼130–170 km in diameter, although the presence of ongoing accretion from the debris disc implies that the planetesimal was probably larger than this. While a previous abundance study of the accreted material has shown an anomalously high mass fraction of carbon (15 per cent) compared to the bulk Earth, our independent analysis results in a carbon abundance of just 2.5 per cent. Enhanced abundances of core material (Fe, Ni) suggest that the accreted object may have lost a portion of its mantle, possibly due to stellar wind stripping in the asymptotic giant branch. Time series spectroscopy reveals variable emission from the orbiting gaseous disc, demonstrating that the evolved planetary system at SDSS J0845+2257 is dynamically active.
    Preview · Article · May 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present high-speed, three-colour photometry of the eclipsing dwarf nova PHL 1445, which, with an orbital period of 76.3 min, lies just below the period minimum of ∼82 min for cataclysmic variable stars (CVs). Averaging four eclipses reveals resolved eclipses of the white dwarf and bright spot. We determined the system parameters by fitting a parametrized eclipse model to the averaged light curve. We obtain a mass ratio of q = 0.087 ± 0.006 and inclination i = 85$_{.}^{\circ}$2 ± 0$_{.}^{\circ}$9. The primary and donor masses were found to be Mw = 0.73 ± 0.03 M⊙ and Md = 0.064 ± 0.005 M⊙, respectively. Through multicolour photometry a temperature of the white dwarf of Tw = 13 200 ± 700 K and a distance of 220 ± 50 pc were determined. The evolutionary state of PHL 1445 is uncertain. We are able to rule out a significantly evolved donor, but not one that is slightly evolved. Formation with a brown dwarf donor is plausible, though the brown dwarf would need to be no older than 600 Myr at the start of mass transfer, requiring an extremely low mass ratio (q = 0.025) progenitor system. PHL 1445 joins SDSS 1433 as a sub-period minimum CV with a substellar donor. The existence of two such systems raises an alternative possibility that current estimates for the intrinsic scatter and/or position of the period minimum may be in error.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The cool white dwarf SDSS J124231.07+522626.6 exhibits photospheric absorption lines of eight distinct heavy elements in medium resolution optical spectra, notably including oxygen. The Teff = 13 000 K atmosphere is helium-dominated, but the convection zone contains significant amounts of hydrogen and oxygen. The four most common rock-forming elements (O, Mg, Si, and Fe) account for almost all the accreted mass, totalling at least 1.2 × 1024 g, similar to the mass of Ceres. The time-averaged accretion rate is 2 × 1010 g s−1, one of the highest rates inferred among all known metal-polluted white dwarfs. We note a large oxygen excess, with respect to the most common metal oxides, suggesting that the white dwarf accreted planetary debris with a water content of ≈38 per cent by mass. This star, together with GD 61, GD 16, and GD 362, form a small group of outliers from the known population of evolved planetary systems accreting predominantly dry, rocky debris. This result strengthens the hypothesis that, integrated over the cooling ages of white dwarfs, accretion of water-rich debris from disrupted planetesimals may significantly contribute to the build-up of trace hydrogen observed in a large fraction of helium-dominated white dwarf atmospheres.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We report on the largest Swift AGN monitoring program, concerning UV/optical variability in Seyferts. From 554 observations, over a 750d period, of the Seyfert galaxy NGC 5548, we see (McHardy et al. 2014) a good overall correlation between the X-ray and UV/optical bands,particularly on short timescales (tens of days). The UVOT bands are found to lag behind X-rays with a lag scaling as wavelength to the power 1.23 +/- 0.31, in excellent agreement with that expected (1.33) if UV/optical variability arises from reprocessing of X-rays by the accretion disc. However, the observed lags are ~3 times longer than expected from a standard Shakura-Sunyaev disc, raising real concerns about the detailed validity of this model. The results can be explained with a slightly larger mass and accretion rate, and a hotter disc, or if the disc is clumpy, thereby enhancing the emission from the outer regions.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015
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    ABSTRACT: We report on the search for new eclipsing white dwarf plus main-sequence (WDMS) binaries in the light curves of the Catalina surveys. We use a colour-selected list of almost 2000 candidate WDMS systems from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, specifically designed to identify WDMS systems with cool white dwarfs and/or early M-type main-sequence stars. We identify a total of 17 eclipsing systems, 14 of which are new discoveries. We also find three candidate eclipsing systems, two main-sequence eclipsing binaries and 22 non-eclipsing close binaries. Our newly discovered systems generally have optical fluxes dominated by the main-sequence components, which have earlier spectral types than the majority of previously discovered eclipsing systems. We find a large number of ellipsoidally variable binaries with similar periods, near 4 h, and spectral types M2–3, which are very close to Roche lobe filling. We also find that the fraction of eclipsing systems is lower than found in previous studies and likely reflects a lower close binary fraction among WDMS binaries with early M-type main-sequence stars due to their enhanced angular momentum loss compared to fully convective late M-type stars, hence causing them to become cataclysmic variables quicker and disappear from the WDMS sample. Our systems bring the total number of known detached, eclipsing WDMS binaries to 71.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present the first results of a dedicated search for pulsating white dwarfs (WDs) in detached WD plus main-sequence (MS) binaries. Candidate systems were selected from a catalogue of WD+MS binaries, based on the surface gravities and effective temperatures of the WDs. We observed a total of 26 systems using ULTRACAM mounted on ESO's 3.5 m New Technology Telescope at La Silla. Our photometric observations reveal pulsations in seven WDs of our sample, including the first pulsating WD with an MS companion in a post-common envelope (CE) binary, SDSS J1136+0409. Asteroseismology of these new pulsating systems will provide crucial insight into how binary interactions, particularly the CE phase, affect the internal structure and evolution of WDs. In addition, our observations have revealed the partially eclipsing nature of one of our targets, SDSS J1223−0056.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present new eclipse observations of the polar (i.e. semidetached magnetic white dwarf + M-dwarf binary) HU Aqr, and mid-egress times for each eclipse, which continue to be observed increasingly early. Recent eclipses occurred more than 70 s earlier than the prediction from the latest model that invoked a single circumbinary planet to explain the observed orbital period variations, thereby conclusively proving this model to be incorrect. Using ULTRACAM data, we show that mid-egress times determined for simultaneous data taken at different wavelengths agree with each other. The large variations in the observed eclipse times cannot be explained by planetary models containing up to three planets, because of poor fits to the data as well as orbital instability on short time-scales. The peak-to-peak amplitude of the O−C diagram of almost 140 s is also too great to be caused by Applegate's mechanism, movement of the accretion spot on the surface of the white dwarf, or by asynchronous rotation of the white dwarf. What does cause the observed eclipse time variations remains a mystery.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present high time resolution SDSS-g′ and SDSS-z′ light curves of the primary eclipse in SDSS J141126.20+200911.1, together with time-resolved X-Shooter spectroscopy and near-infrared (NIR) JHKs photometry. Our observations confirm the substellar nature of the companion, making SDSS J141126.20+200911.1 the first eclipsing white dwarf/brown dwarf binary known. We measure a (white dwarf model dependent) mass and radius for the brown dwarf companion of M2 = 0.050 ± 0.002 M⊙ and R2 = 0.072 ± 0.004 M⊙, respectively. The lack of a robust detection of the companion light in the z′-band eclipse constrains the spectral type of the companion to be later than L5. Comparing the NIR photometry to the expected white dwarf flux reveals a clear Ks-band excess, suggesting a spectral type in the range L7–T1. The radius measurement is consistent with the predictions of evolutionary models, and suggests a system age in excess of 3 Gyr. The low companion mass is inconsistent with the inferred spectral type of L7–T1, instead predicting a spectral type nearer T5. This indicates that irradiation of the companion in SDSS J141126.20+200911.1 could be causing a significant temperature increase, at least on one hemisphere.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present the discovery of strongly variable emission lines from a gaseous disc around the DA white dwarf SDSS J1617+1620, a star previously found to have an infrared excess indicative of a dusty debris disc formed by the tidal disruption of a rocky planetary body. Time series spectroscopy obtained during the period 2006–2014 has shown the appearance of strong double-peaked Ca ii emission lines in 2008. The lines were weak, at best, during earlier observations, and monotonically faded through the remainder of our monitoring. Our observations represent unambiguous evidence for short-term variability in the debris environment of evolved planetary systems. Possible explanations for this extraordinary variability include the impact on to the dusty disc of either a single small rocky planetesimal, or of material from a highly eccentric debris tail. The increase in flux from the emission lines is sufficient that similar events could be detected in the broad-band photometry of ongoing and future large-area time domain surveys.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Using the Hubble Space Telescope, we detail the first abundance analysis enabled by far-ultraviolet spectroscopy of a low-mass (≃0.19 M⊙) white dwarf (WD), GALEX J1717+6757, which is in a 5.9-h binary with a fainter, more-massive companion. We see absorption from nine metals, including roughly solar abundances of Ca, Fe, Ti, and P. We detect a significantly sub-solar abundance of C, and put upper limits on N and O that are also markedly sub-solar. Updated diffusion calculations indicate that all metals should settle out of the atmosphere of this 14 900 K, log g = 5.67 WD in the absence of radiative forces in less than 20 yr, orders of magnitude faster than the cooling age of hundreds of Myr. We demonstrate that ongoing accretion of rocky material that is often the cause of atmospheric metals in isolated, more massive WDs is unlikely to explain the observed abundances in GALEX J1717+6757. Using new radiative levitation calculations, we determine that radiative forces can counteract diffusion and support many but not all of the elements present in the atmosphere of this WD; radiative levitation cannot, on its own, explain all of the observed abundance patterns, and additional mechanisms such as rotational mixing may be required. Finally, we detect both primary and secondary eclipses using ULTRACAM high-speed photometry, which we use to constrain the low-mass WD radius and rotation rate as well as update the ephemeris from the discovery observations of this WD+WD binary.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Lags measured from correlated X-ray/UV/optical monitoring of AGN allow us to determine whether UV/optical variability is driven by reprocessing of X-rays or X-ray variability is driven by UV/optical seed photon variations. We present the results of the largest study to date of the relationship between the X-ray, UV and optical variability in an AGN with 554 observations, over a 750 d period, of the Seyfert 1 galaxy NGC 5548 with Swift. There is a good overall correlation between the X-ray and UV/optical bands, particularly on short time-scales (tens of days). The UV/optical bands lag the X-ray band with lags which are proportional to wavelength raised to the power 1.23 ± 0.31. This power is very close to the power (4/3) expected if short time-scale UV/optical variability is driven by reprocessing of X-rays by a surrounding accretion disc. The observed lags, however, are longer than expected from a standard Shakura–Sunyaev accretion disc with X-ray heating, given the currently accepted black hole mass and accretion rate values, but can be explained with a slightly larger mass and accretion rate, and a generally hotter disc. Some long-term UV/optical variations are not paralleled exactly in the X-rays, suggesting an additional component to the UV/optical variability arising perhaps from accretion rate perturbations propagating inwards through the disc.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Over six years of operation, the Catalina Real-time Transient Survey (CRTS) has identified 1043 cataclysmic variable (CV) candidates – the largest sample of CVs from a single survey to date. Here, we provide spectroscopic identification of 85 systems fainter than g ≥ 19, including three AM Canum Venaticorum binaries, one helium-enriched CV, one polar and one new eclipsing CV. We analyse the outburst properties of the full sample and show that it contains a large fraction of low-accretion-rate CVs with long outburst recurrence times. We argue that most of the high-accretion-rate dwarf novae in the survey footprint have already been found and that future CRTS discoveries will be mostly low-accretion-rate systems. We find that CVs with white-dwarf-dominated spectra have significantly fewer outbursts in their CRTS light curves compared to disc-dominated CVs, reflecting the difference in their accretion rates. Comparing the CRTS sample to other samples of CVs, we estimate the overall external completeness to be 23.6 per cent, but show that as much as 56 per cent of CVs have variability amplitudes that are too small to be selected using the transient selection criteria employed by current ground-based surveys. The full table of CRTS CVs, including their outburst and spectroscopic properties examined in this paper, is provided in the online materials.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The AM Canum Venaticorum (AM CVn) binaries are a rare group of ultrashort period, mass-transferring white dwarf binaries, some of which may be Type Ia supernova progenitors. More than a third of the total known population of AM CVn binaries have been discovered via the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Here, we discuss our search for new AM CVns in the SDSS spectroscopic data base, and present two new AM CVns discovered in SDSS-III spectroscopy, SDSS J113732.32+405458.3 and SDSS J150551.58+065948.7. The AM CVn binaries exhibit a connection between their spectral appearance and their orbital period, the spectra of these two new AM CVns suggest that they may be long-period systems. Using the radial velocity variations of the emission lines, we measure a possible orbital period of 59.6 ± 2.7 min for SDSS J113732.32+405458.3. Since our search of SDSS spectroscopy has revealed only these two new systems, it is unlikely that a large population of AM CVn binaries have been missed, and their discovery should have little effect on previous calculations of the AM CVn space density.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present high-quality ULTRACAM photometry of the eclipsing detached double white dwarf binary NLTT 11748. This system consists of a carbon/oxygen white dwarf and an extremely low mass (<0.2 M ☉) helium-core white dwarf in a 5.6 hr orbit. To date, such extremely low-mass white dwarfs, which can have thin, stably burning outer layers, have been modeled via poorly constrained atmosphere and cooling calculations where uncertainties in the detailed structure can strongly influence the eventual fates of these systems when mass transfer begins. With precise (individual precision ≈1%), high-cadence (≈2 s), multicolor photometry of multiple primary and secondary eclipses spanning >1.5 yr, we constrain the masses and radii of both objects in the NLTT 11748 system to a statistical uncertainty of a few percent. However, we find that overall uncertainty in the thickness of the envelope of the secondary carbon/oxygen white dwarf leads to a larger (≈13%) systematic uncertainty in the primary He WD's mass. Over the full range of possible envelope thicknesses, we find that our primary mass (0.136-0.162 M ☉) and surface gravity (log (g) = 6.32-6.38; radii are 0.0423-0.0433 R ☉) constraints do not agree with previous spectroscopic determinations. We use precise eclipse timing to detect the Rømer delay at 7σ significance, providing an additional weak constraint on the masses and limiting the eccentricity to ecos ω = (– 4 ± 5) × 10–5. Finally, we use multicolor data to constrain the secondary's effective temperature (7600 ± 120 K) and cooling age (1.6-1.7 Gyr).
    Preview · Article · Nov 2013 · The Astrophysical Journal
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    ABSTRACT: The eclipsing white dwarf plus main-sequence binary NN Serpentis provides one of the most convincing cases for the existence of circumbinary planets around evolved binaries. The exquisite timing precision provided by the deep eclipse of the white dwarf has revealed complex variations in the eclipse arrival times over the last few decades. These variations have been interpreted as the influence of two planets in orbit around the binary. Recent studies have proved that such a system is dynamically stable over the current lifetime of the binary. However, the existence of such planets is by no means proven and several alternative mechanisms have been proposed that could drive similar variations. One of these is apsidal precession, which causes the eclipse times of eccentric binaries to vary sinusoidally on many year timescales. In this paper we present timing data for the secondary eclipse of NN Ser and show that they follow the same trend seen in the primary eclipse times, ruling out apsidal precession as a possible cause for the variations. This result leaves no alternatives to the planetary interpretation for the observed period variations, although we still do not consider their existence as proven. Our data limits the eccentricity of NN Ser to e<0.001. We also detect a 3.3+/-1.0 second delay in the arrival times of the secondary eclipses relative to the best planetary model. This delay is consistent with the expected 2.84+/-0.04 second Romer delay of the binary, and is the first time this effect has been detected in a white dwarf plus M dwarf system.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: The star 1SWASP J024743.37−251549.2 was recently discovered to be a binary star in which an A-type dwarf star eclipses the remnant of a disrupted red giant star (WASP 0247−25 B). The remnant is in a rarely observed state evolving to higher effective temperatures at nearly constant luminosity prior to becoming a very low mass white dwarf composed almost entirely of helium, i.e. it is a pre-helium white dwarf (pre-He-WD). We have used the photometric database from the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) to find 17 eclipsing binary stars with orbital periods P = 0.7–2.2 d with similar light curves to 1SWASP J024743.37−251549.2. The only star in this group previously identified as a variable star is the brightest one, EL CVn, which we adopt as the prototype for this class of eclipsing binary star. The characteristic light curves of EL CVn-type stars show a total eclipse by an A-type dwarf star of a smaller, hotter star and a secondary eclipse of comparable depth to the primary eclipse. We have used new spectroscopic observations for six of these systems to confirm that the companions to the A-type stars in these binaries have very low masses (${\approx } 0.2{\,{\rm M}_{\odot }}$). This includes the companion to EL CVn which was not previously known to be a pre-He-WD. EL CVn-type binary star systems will enable us to study the formation of very low mass white dwarfs in great detail, particularly in those cases where the pre-He-WD star shows non-radial pulsations similar to those recently discovered in WASP0247−25 B.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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    ABSTRACT: We present 25 new eclipse times of the white dwarf binary NN Ser taken with the high-speed camera ULTRACAM on the William Herschel Telescope and New Technology Telescope, the RISE camera on the Liverpool Telescope and HAWK-I on the Very Large Telescope to test the two-planet model proposed to explain variations in its eclipse times measured over the last 25 yr. The planetary model survives the test with flying colours, correctly predicting a progressive lag in eclipse times of 36 s that has set in since 2010 compared to the previous 8 yr of precise times. Allowing both orbits to be eccentric, we find orbital periods of 7.9 ± 0.5 and 15.3 ± 0.3 yr, and masses of 2.3 ± 0.5 and 7.3 ± 0.3 MJ. We also find dynamically long-lived orbits consistent with the data, associated with 2:1 and 5:2 period ratios. The data scatter by 0.07 s relative to the best-fitting model, by some margin the most precise of any of the proposed eclipsing compact object planet hosts. Despite the high precision, degeneracy in the orbit fits prevents a significant measurement of a period change of the binary and of N-body effects. Finally, we point out a major flaw with a previous dynamical stability analysis of NN Ser, and by extension, with a number of analyses of similar systems.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society