Discovery of a stripped red giant core in a bright eclipsing binary system
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 08:53 by P. F. L. Maxted, D. R. Anderson, B. Smalley, M. R. Burleigh, R. G. West, A. Collier Cameron, U. Heber, S. Geier, T. Kupfer, B. T. Gänsicke, T. R. Marsh, G. Nelemans, S. J. O'Toole, R. H. Østensen
We have identified a star in the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) archive photometry with an unusual light curve due to the total eclipse of a small, hot star by an apparently normal A-type star and with an orbital period of only 0.668 d. From an analysis of the WASP light curve together with V-band and IC-band photometry of the eclipse and a spectroscopic orbit for the A-type star we estimate that the companion star has a mass of 0.23 ± 0.03 M⊙ and a radius of 0.33 ± 0.01 R⊙, assuming that the A-type star is a main-sequence star with the metallicity appropriate for a thick-disc star. The effective temperature of the companion is 13 400 ± 1200 K from which we infer a luminosity of 3 ± 1 L⊙. From a comparison of these parameters to various models we conclude that the companion is most likely to be the remnant of a red giant star that has been very recently stripped of its outer layers by mass transfer on to the A-type star. In this scenario, the companion is currently in a shell hydrogen-burning phase of its evolution, evolving at nearly constant luminosity to hotter effective temperatures prior to ceasing hydrogen burning and fading to become a low-mass white dwarf composed of helium (He-WD). The system will then resemble the pre-He-WD/He-WD companions to A- and B-type stars recently identified from their Kepler satellite light curves (KOI-74, KOI-81 and KIC 10657664). This newly discovered binary offers the opportunity to study the evolution of a stripped red giant star through the pre-He-WD stage in great detail.