Gaia’s Light Curve Prospects

Phase-folded light curves showing Gaia epoch photometry in green for white dwarfs matching ZTF and TESS data in blue and red (credit Steen et al. 2024).

In April 2024, a manuscript led by former BU undergraduate student and BUWD member Maya Steen (Steen, Hermes, Guidry et al. 2024) detailed one of the first systematic analyses of Gaia DR3 multi-epoch light curves, this focused on white dwarfs. Roughly 1300 candidate white dwarfs have Gaia light curves (spanning roughly 1000 days with visits roughly every 44 days). Even with that sparse sampling, Maya (who is now a graduate student at New Mexico State University) showed that periodicities as short as minutes can be detected from the Gaia light curves alone! We discover 86 new objects from the 105 target sample, including pulsating, spotted, and binary white dwarfs, and even a new 68.4 min eclipsing cataclysmic variable. The manuscript has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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