Propeller-activated resonances and the fate of short-period cataclysmic variables
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 09:21 by O. M. Matthews, P. J. Wheatley, G. A. Wynn, M. R. Truss
We show that the combination of a weak magnetic propeller and accretion disc resonances can effectively halt accretion in short-period cataclysmic variables (CVs) for large fractions of their lifetimes. This may help to explain the discrepancy between the observed and predicted orbital period distributions of CVs at short periods. Orbital resonances cause the disc to become eccentric, allowing material to fall back on to the donor star or out of the system. A weak magnetic field on a rapidly spinning primary star propels disc material outwards, allowing it to access these resonances. Numerical and analytic calculations show that this state can be long lived (∼1011 yr). This is because the magnetic propeller is required only to maintain access to the resonances, and not to push matter out of the Roche lobe, so that the spin-down time-scale is much longer than that for a classical propeller model.