NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2006A-0160

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Proposal Information for 2006A-0160


PI: Daniel Steeghs, Harvard-Shithsonian, dsteeghs@cfa.harvard.edu
Address: Center for Astrophysics, MS-67, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

CoI: Gijs Nelemans, University of Nijmegen, NL
CoI: Thomas Marsh, University of Warwick, UK
CoI: Paul Groot, University of Nijmegen, NL
CoI: Gijs Roelofs, University of Nijmegen, NL
CoI: Susana Barros, University of Warwick, UK

Title: Resolving the shortest period binary with Keck

Abstract: We propose to use the unique blue throughput of the Keck / LRIS-B spectrograph combination to obtain phase-resolved spectra of the enigmatic accreting binary RX J0806+1527. This is likely the shortest period binary known, with a stunning orbital period of only 5.3 minutes. In that case it would be one of the most extreme objects in the universe; a unique test for binary evolution theory, as it would descend from the same double white dwarf population that are Type Ia progenitor candidates, and would be the strongest known gravitational wave source in our Galaxy. Phase-resolved spectroscopy with a large telescope is the only way to determine its accretion geometry and rigorously distinguish this exciting possibility from more mundane models in which the 5.3 min period represents the spin of a white dwarf in a longer- period binary.


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NOAO >   Observing Info >   Approved Programs >   2006A-0160

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