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Confirmation Of A Second Propeller: A High-inclination Twin Of AE Aquarii

Presentation #225.01 in the session “Binary Stellar Systems and Cataclysmic Variables”.

Published onJun 18, 2021
Confirmation Of A Second Propeller: A High-inclination Twin Of AE Aquarii

AE Aquarii (AE Aqr) has been the only cataclysmic variable star known to contain a magnetic propeller: a persistent outflow whose expulsion from the binary is powered by the spin-down of the rapidly rotating, magnetized white dwarf. Recently, LAMOST- J024048.51+195226.9 (J0240) was identified as a candidate eclipsing AE Aqr object, and we present extensive time-series spectroscopy and photometry that strongly support this hypothesis. We show that during the photometric flares noted by Thorstensen, the half-width-at-zero-intensity of the Balmer and HeI lines routinely reaches a maximum of 3000 km/s, well in excess of what is observed in normal cataclysmic variables. This is, however, consistent with the high-velocity emission seen in flares from AE Aqr. Additionally, we confirm beyond doubt that J0240 is a deeply eclipsing system. The flaring continuum, HeI and much of the Balmer emission likely originate close to the WD because they disappear during the eclipse that is centered on inferior conjunction of the secondary star. The fraction of the Balmer emission remaining visible during eclipse has a steep decrement and it is likely produced in the extended outflow. Most enticingly of all, this outflow produces a narrow P Cyg absorption component for nearly half of the orbit, and we demonstrate that this scenario closely matches the outflow kinematics predicted by Wynn, King, & Horne. While an important piece of evidence for the magnetic-propeller hypothesis — a rapid WD spin period — remains elusive, our spectra provide compelling support for the existence of a propeller-driven outflow viewed nearly edge-on, enabling a new means of rigorously testing theories of the propeller phenomenon.

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