Studies of low-mass interacting binary stars
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Spectroscopic and photometric observations of eight contact/near-contact binaries are presented and analysed. Spectroscopic observations were obtained at 4200 Å (radial velocity spectra) and 6563 Å (hydrogen-alpha line profiles). New photometric observations were obtained at visual and infrared wavelengths, and other previously published light curves are also re-analysed. Absolute dimensions have been obtained for five systems; TY Boo, VW Boo, BX And, SS Ari and AG Vir, and their evolutionary positions discussed. Four of the systems are found to be in marginal but poor thermal contact, exhibiting regions of apparent "excess luminosity" in their light curves. A qualitative analysis of these "hot spot" regions has been attempted for the first time using spot models now incorporated into a light curve synthesis programme. Substantial time for this project was awarded on telescopes funded by the United Kingdom Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC), comprising 14 nights at the Issac Newton Telescope (INT) on La Palma, and 4 nights at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Mauna Kea. Additional observations were made during an 8 night commissioning run on the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT) on La Palma, and extensive observations were made with the Twin Photometric Telescope (TPT) at St Andrews University Observatory between 1985 and 1989. These resulted in over 100 spectra at 4200 Å and over 50 spectra at 6563 Å (INT and JKT observations), over 300 infrared photometric observations (UKIRT), and over 3500 visual photometric observations (TPT). Of the five systems analysed in detail in this work, TY Boo appears to be a normal shallow-contact W-type system. Both VW Boo and BX And exhibit regions of "excess luminosity" around the ingress and egress of secondary minimum which are well modelled by a warm spot on the cooler component sitting symmetrically around the neck joining the pair. Such a phenomenon may be expected to arise naturally in systems which have come into contact but are not yet/currently in thermal contact, exhibiting a temperature difference between the components. BXAnd like other B-type systems seems to be reaching this contact state for the first time, but the position of VW Boo is uncertain, and whilst evidence that it could be in the "broken contact" state predicted by the TRO Theory is far from conclusive, its lower orbital angular momentum clearly marks the system as worthy of further study. SS Ari and AG Vir exhibit light curves with unequal quadrature heights. Attempts to treat the higher quadrature as a region of "excess luminosity" due to an energy transfer "warm spot" does not however provide a good model of this phenomenon. Since invoking a dark starspot model also does not provide a good explanation for such systems, it may be that this form of light curve distortion is due to an entirely different form of distorting surface phenomenon. Like BX And, AG Vir appears to be just reaching contact for the first time, but like VW Boo, the slightly lower angular momentum of SS Ari warrants further study.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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