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Astron. Astrophys. 346, 163-174 (1999)

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Opacities along the line of sight to and in the atmosphere of the white dwarf in the close detached DAO+dM binary RE J0720-318

P.D. Dobbie 1, M.A. Barstow *  1, M.R. Burleigh[FORMULA]  1 and I. Hubeny 2

1 Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
2 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 681, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA

Received 24 December 1998 / Accepted 1 March 1999


We present the results from a multi-wavelength study of the mixed H+He composition DAO white dwarf RE J0720-318. A detailed analysis of UV and EUV spectroscopic data with state-of-the-art non-LTE photospheric models demonstrates that the observed opacity to EUV radiation probably results from a more complex structure than a simple H+He, chemically layered atmosphere. Instead, EUV photometry and phase resolved EUV spectroscopy indicate a likely spatial non-uniformity in the surface distribution of helium, which is consistent with a model in which material is accreted from the wind of the dM secondary. The rotational modulation of the spatially inhomogeneous EUV opacity allows us to estimate the rotation period of the white dwarf ([FORMULA] days). We have also reviewed two plausible origins proposed by Burleigh et al. (1997) and Dupuis et al. (1997a) to account for the unusual N(HI)/N(HeI)[FORMULA]1 along this line of sight. We conclude that it is probably due to the presence of a cloud of ionized gas along this line of sight, rather than a circumbinary disk. The cloud, residing between 123-170 pc distant in the direction of the CMa ISM tunnel, may be [FORMULA] pc in length.

Key words: stars: abundances – stars: atmospheres – stars: binaries: close – stars: individual: RE J0720-318

* Guest Observer with EUVE

Send offprint requests to: P.D.Dobbie

Correspondence to: pdd@star.le.ac.uk

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: May 6, 1999