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Testing White Dwarf Age Estimates Using Wide Double White Dwarf Binaries from Gaia EDR3

Heintz, Tyler M. and Hermes, J. J. and El-Badry, Kareem and Walsh, Charlie and van Saders, Jennifer L. and Fields, C. E. and Koester, Detlev (2022) Testing White Dwarf Age Estimates Using Wide Double White Dwarf Binaries from Gaia EDR3. Astrophysical Journal, 934 (2). Art. No. 148. ISSN 0004-637X. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/ac78d9.

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White dwarf (WD) stars evolve simply and predictably, making them reliable age indicators. However, self-consistent validation of the methods for determining WD total ages has yet to be widely performed. This work uses 1565 wide (>100 au) WD+WD binaries and 24 new triples containing at least two WDs to test the accuracy and validity of WD total age determinations. For these 1589 wide double WD binaries and triples, we derive the total age of each WD using photometric data from all-sky surveys, in conjunction with Gaia parallaxes and current hydrogen atmosphere WD models. Ignoring the initial-to-final mass relation and considering only WD cooling ages, we find that roughly 21%–36% of the more massive WDs in a system have a shorter cooling age. Since more massive WDs should be born as more massive main-sequence stars, we interpret this unphysical disagreement as evidence of prior mergers or the presence of an unresolved companion, suggesting that roughly 21%–36% of wide WD+WD binaries were once triples. Among the 423 wide WD+WD pairs that pass high-fidelity cuts, we find that 25% total age uncertainties are generally appropriate for WDs with masses >0.63 M_⊙ and temperatures <12,000 K and provide suggested inflation factors for age uncertainties for higher-mass WDs. Overall, WDs return reliable stellar ages, but we detail cases where the total ages are least reliable, especially for WDs <0.63 M_⊙.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Heintz, Tyler M.0000-0003-3868-1123
Hermes, J. J.0000-0001-5941-2286
El-Badry, Kareem0000-0002-6871-1752
Walsh, Charlie0000-0002-0825-801X
van Saders, Jennifer L.0000-0002-4284-8638
Fields, C. E.0000-0002-8925-057X
Koester, Detlev0000-0002-6164-6978
Additional Information:© 2022. The Author(s). Published by the American Astronomical Society. Original content from this work may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. Any further distribution of this work must maintain attribution to the author(s) and the title of the work, journal citation and DOI. We acknowledge helpful comments from the anonymous referee. We would like to acknowledge Jeff Andrews for helpful discussions. T.M.H., J.J.H., and C.W. acknowledge support from the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1908119. J.v.S. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation under grant No. AST-1908723. We thank Phil Muirhead and Adam Samuels for support with the quick-look spectroscopic tool. This work has made use of data from the European Space Agency (ESA) mission Gaia (, processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC; Funding for the DPAC has been provided by national institutions, in particular the institutions participating in the Gaia Multilateral Agreement. These results made use of the Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) at Lowell Observatory. Lowell is a private, nonprofit institution dedicated to astrophysical research and public appreciation of astronomy and operates the LDT in partnership with Boston University, the University of Maryland, the University of Toledo, Northern Arizona University, and Yale University. The upgrade of the DeVeny optical spectrograph has been funded by a generous grant from John and Ginger Giovale and a grant from the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gaia Multilateral AgreementUNSPECIFIED
John and Ginger GiovaleUNSPECIFIED
Mt. Cuba Astronomical FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20230105-895979000.55
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:118729
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:06 Jan 2023 22:23
Last Modified:06 Jan 2023 22:23

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