HEAD 2003 Meeting
Session 18. Cataclysmic Variables/White Dwarfs
Poster, Sunday-Wednesday, March 23, 2003, Duration of Meeting

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[18.05] Evidence for Orbital Decay of RX J1914.4+2456: Gravitational Radiation and the Nature of the X-ray Emission

T. E. Strohmayer (NASA/GSFC)

RX J1914.4+2456 is a candidate double-degenerate binary (AM CVn) with a putative 569 s orbital period. If this identification is correct, then it has one of the shortest binary orbital periods known, and gravitational radiation should drive the orbital evolution and mass transfer if the binary is semi-detached. We report the results of a coherent timing study of the archival ROSAT and ASCA data for RX J1914.4+2456. We performed a phase coherent timing analysis using all observations spanning an \approx 4.6 year period. We demonstrate that all the data can be phase connected, and we present evidence that the 1.756 mHz orbital frequency is increasing at a rate of 8 ±3 \times 10-18 Hz s-1, consistent with the expected loss of angular momentum from the binary system via gravitational radiation. In addition to providing evidence for the emission of gravitational waves, measurement of the orbital \dot\nu constrains models for the X-ray emission and the nature of the secondary. If stable mass accretion drives the X-ray flux, then a positive \dot\nu is inconsistent with a degenerate donor. A helium burning dwarf is compatible if indeed such systems can have periods as short as that of RX J1914.4+2456, an open theoretical question. Our measurement of a positive \dot\nu is consistent with the unipolar induction model of Wu et al. which does not require accretion to drive the X-ray flux. We discuss how future timing measurements of RX J1914.4+2456 (and systems like it) with for example, Chandra and XMM-Newton, can provide a unique probe of the interaction between mass loss and gravitational radiation. We also discuss the importance of such measurements in the context of gravitational wave detection from space, such as is expected in the future with the LISA mission.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: Tod.E.Strohmayer@nasa.gov

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35#2
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.