Friday, November 18, 2016

Observing Asteroid Fragmentation Around White Dwarf WD 1145+017


Gary et al


WD 1145+017 was observed from 2015 November to 2016 July for the purpose of characterizing transit behavior of the white dwarf by dust clouds thought to be produced by fragments of an asteroid in close orbit with the star. Fortuitously, most of these observations were carried out during a time when the overall "dip" activity was dramatically enhanced over that during its discovery with K2. By the end of our reported observations the dip activity had declined to a level close to its original state. Three notable events were observed. In 2016 January a large number of dust clouds appeared that had an orbital period of 4.4912 hours, and this event also marked the end of a 3-month interval of individual dip appearances that were dominated by short-lived activity producing an apparent 4.5004-hour periodicity that previous studies associated with the Kepler K2 "A" period. The second event was a 2016 April 21 appearance of four dip features with drift lines in a waterfall (date vs. phase) diagram that diverged from their origin date, and which lasted for two weeks. These dips appeared at a location in the orbit that cannot be explained as fragments that had just broken away from the "A" asteroid. The third event was the sudden appearance of a dip feature with a period of 4.6064 hours, which is essentially the same as the Kepler K2 "B" period. The evolution of dip shape, depth, and total fade amount provide constraints on dust production and loss mechanisms. Collisions can account for the sudden appearance of dust clouds, and the sudden increase in dust amount, but another mechanism for continual dust production is also required.

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