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Title: Stellar and planetary remnants in digital sky surveys
Author: Girven, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 7505
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2012
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Large scale digital sky surveys have produced an unprecedented volume of uniform data covering both vast proportions of the sky and a wide range of wavelength, from the ultraviolet to the near-infrared. The challenge facing astronomers today is how to use this multitude of information to extract trends, outliers and and rare objects. For example, a large sample of single white dwarf stars has the potential to probe the Galaxy through the luminosity function. The aim of this work was to study stellar and planetary remnants in these surveys. In the last few decades, it has been shown that a handful of white dwarfs have remnants of planetary systems around them, in the form of a dusty disc. These are currently providing the best constraints on the composition of extra-solar planetary systems. Finding significant numbers of dusty discs is only possible in large scale digital sky surveys. I ultilised the SDSS DR7 and colour-colour diagrams to and DA white dwarfs from optical photometry. This nearly doubled the number of spectroscopically con- armed DA white dwarfs in the SDSS compared with DR4 [Eisenstein et al., 2006], and introduced nearly 10; 000 photometric-only DA white dwarf candidates. I further cross-matched our white dwarf catalogue with UKIDSS LAS DR8 to carry out the currently largest and deepest untargeted search for low-mass companions to, and dust discs around, DA white dwarfs. Simultaneously, I analyzed Spitzer observations of 15 white dwarfs with metal-polluted atmospheres, all but one having helium-dominated atmospheres. Three of these stars were found to have an infrared excess consistent with a dusty disc. I used the total sample to estimate a typical disc lifetime of log[tdisc(yr)] = 5:6+1:1, which is compatible with the relatively large range estimated from different theoretical models. Subdwarf population synthesis models predicted a vast population of subdwarfs with F to K-type companions, produced in the effcient RLOF formation channel. I used a cross-match of ultraviolet, optical and infrared surveys to search for this unseen population. I select a complementary sample to those found from radial velocity surveys, offering direct tests of binary evolution pathways. Finally, I present a method to use common proper motion white dwarf pairs to constrain the initial-final mass relation, which is extremely uncertain at low masses. In the example I show, one of the stars is a magnetic white dwarf with B ' 6 MG, making this a rare and intriguing system from a magnetic white dwarf formation point of view.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QB Astronomy