Institute of Astronomy

COS Spectroscopy of White Dwarf Companions to Blue Stragglers

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Natalie Gosnell25 July 2016Binary Stars Talks


Complete membership studies of open stellar clusters reveal that 25% of the evolved stars follow alternative pathways in stellar evolution, meaning something in the history of these stars changed their composition or mass (or both). In order to draw a complete picture of stellar evolution we must include these canonically "strange" stars in our definition of standard stellar populations. The formation mechanism of blue straggler stars, traditionally defined to be brighter and bluer than the main sequence turnoff in a star cluster, has been an outstanding question for almost six decades. Recent Hubble Space Telescope (HST) far-ultraviolet (far-UV) observations directly reveal that the blue straggler stars in the old (7 Gyr) open cluster NGC 188 are predominantly formed through mass transfer. I will present HST far-UV COS spectroscopy of white dwarf companions to blue stragglers. These white dwarfs are the remnants of the mass transfer formation process. The effective temperatures and surface gravities of the white dwarfs delineate the timeline of blue straggler formation in this cluster. The existence of these binaries in a well-studied cluster environment provides an unprecedented opportunity to observationally constrain mass transfer models and inform our understanding of many other alternative pathway stellar products.


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