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An On-going Mid-infrared Outburst in the White Dwarf 0145+234: Catching in Action of Tidal Disruption of an Exoasteroid?

Status Report From: arXiv.org e-Print archive
Posted: Friday, October 11, 2019

Ting-Gui Wang, Ning Jiang, Jian Ge, Roc M. Cutri, Peng Jiang, Zhengfeng Sheng, Hongyan Zhou, James Bauer, Amy Mainzer, Edward L. Wright

(Submitted on 10 Oct 2019)

We report the detection of a large amplitude MIR outburst in the white dwarf (WD) 0145+234 in the NEOWISE Survey data. The source had a stable MIR flux before 2018, and was brightened by about 1.0 magnitude in the W1 and W2 bands within half a year and has been continuously brightening since then. No significant variations are found in the optical photometry data during the same period. This suggests that this MIR outburst is caused by recent replenishing or redistribution of dust, rather than intrinsic variations of the WD. SED modeling of 0145+234 suggests that there was already a dust disk around the WD in the quiescent state, and both of the temperature and surface area of the disk evolved rapidly since the outburst. The dust temperature was about 1770K in the initial rising phase, close to the sublimation temperature of silicate grains, and gradually cooled down to around 1150K, while the surface area increased by a factor of about 6 during the same period. The inferred closest distance of dust to the WD is within the tidal disruption radius of a gravitationally bounded asteroid. We estimated the dust mass to be between 3×1015 to 3×1017 ρ/(1g cm−3) kg for silicate grains of a power-law size distribution with a high cutoff size from 0.1 to 1000 microns. We interpret this as a possible tidal breakup of an exo-asteroid by the WD. Further follow-up observations of this rare event may provide insights on the origin of dust disk and metal pollution in some white dwarfs.

Comments: Comments are welcomed. Resubmitted to ApJL after addressing referee's comments

Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1910.04314 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:1910.04314v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)

Submission history

From: Tinggui Wang 

[v1] Thu, 10 Oct 2019 00:57:23 UTC (974 KB)

https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.04314


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