Is there a circumbinary planet around NSVS 14256825? (arXiv full text)

The cyclic behaviour of (O-C) residuals of eclipse timings in the sdB+M eclipsing binary NSVS 14256825 was previously attributed to one or two Jovian-type circumbinary planets. We report 83 new eclipse timings that not only fill in the gaps in those already published but also extend the time span of the (O-C) diagram by three years. Based on the archival and our new data spanning over more than 17 years we re-examined the up to date system (O-C). The data revealed systematic, quasi-sinusoidal variation deviating from an older linear ephemeris by about 100 s. It also exhibits a maximum in the (O-C) near JD 2,456,400 that was previously unknown. We consider two most credible explanations of the (O-C) variability: the light propagation time due to the presence of an invisible companion in a distant circumbinary orbit, and magnetic cycles reshaping one of the binary components, known as the Applegate or Lanza-Rodono effect. We found that the latter mechanism is unlikely due to the insufficient energy budget of the M-dwarf secondary. In the framework of the third-body hypothesis, we obtained meaningful constraints on the Keplerian parameters of a putative companion and its mass. Our best-fitting model indicates that the observed quasi-periodic (O-C) variability can be explained by the presence of a brown dwarf with the minimal mass of 15 Jupiter masses rather than a planet, orbiting the binary in a moderately elliptical orbit (~ 0.175) with the period of ~ 10 years. Our analysis rules out two planets model proposed earlier.

Meterwavelength Single-pulse Polarimetric Emission Survey (arXiv full text)

We have conducted the Meterwavelength Single-pulse Polarimetric Emission Survey to study the radio emission properties of normal pulsars. A total of 123 pulsars with periods between 0.1 and 8.5 s were observed in the survey at two different frequencies: 105 profiles at 333 MHz, 118 profiles at 618 MHz, and 100 pulsars at both. In this work we concentrate primarily on the time-averaged properties of the pulsar emission. The measured widths of the pulsar profiles in our sample usually exhibit the radius-to-frequency mapping. We validate the existence of lower bounds for the distribution of profile widths with pulsar period (P), which is seen for multiple definitions of the width, namely, a lower boundary line (LBL) at 2.°7P -0.5 with width measured at 50% level of profile peak, an LBL at 5.°7 P -0.5 for 10% level of peak, and an LBL at 6.°3P -0.5 for width defined as 5σ above the baseline level. In addition, we have measured the degree of linear polarization in the average profile of pulsars and confirmed their dependence on pulsar spin-down energy loss (\dot{E}). The single-pulse polarization data show interesting trends, with the polarization position angle (PPA) distribution exhibiting the simple rotating vector model for high-\dot{E} pulsars, while the PPA becomes more complex for medium- and low-\dot{E} pulsars. The single-pulse total intensity data are useful for studying a number of emission properties from pulsars like subpulse drifting, nulling, and mode changing, which are being explored in separate works.

Optical linear polarization of 74 white dwarfs with the RoboPol polarimeter (arXiv full text)

We present the first linear polarimetric survey of white dwarfs (WDs). Our sample consists of WDs of DA and DC spectral types in the SDSS r magnitude range from 13 to 17. We performed polarimetric observations with the RoboPol polarimeter attached to the 1.3-m telescope at the Skinakas Observatory. We have 74 WDs in our sample, of which almost all are low polarized WDs with polarization degree (PD) smaller than 1%, while only 2 have PD higher than 1%. There is an evidence that on average the isolated WDs of DC type have higher PD (with median PD of 0.78%) than the isolated DA type WDs (with median PD of 0.36%). On the other hand, the median PD of isolated DA type WDs is almost the same, i.e. 0.36% as the median PD of DA type white dwarfs in binary systems with red dwarfs (dM type), i.e. 0.33%. This shows, as expected, that there is no contribution to the PD from the companion if the WD companion is the red dwarf, which is the most common situation for WDs binary systems. We do not find differences in the polarization degree between magnetic and non-magnetic WDs. Because 97% of WDs in our sample have PD lower than 1%, they can be used as faint zero--polarized standard star in the magnitude range from 13 up to 17 of SDSS r filter. They cover the Northern sky between 13 hour to 23 hour in right ascension and from -11° to 78° in declination. Additionally, we found that for low extinction values (<0.04) the best model that describes the dependence of PD on E(B-V) is given by the equation: PD_{max, ISM}[%] = 0.65 x E(B-V)^{0.12}.

Primary black hole spin in OJ287 as determined by the General Relativity centenary flare (arXiv)

J287 is a quasi-periodic quasar with roughly 12 year optical cycles. It displays prominent outbursts which are predictable in a binary black hole model. The model predicted a major optical outburst in December 2015. We found that the outburst did occur within the expected time range, peaking on 2015 December 5 at magnitude 12.9 in the optical R-band. Based on Swift/XRT satellite measurements and optical polarization data, we find that it included a major thermal component. Its timing provides an accurate estimate for the spin of the primary black hole, chi = 0.313 +/- 0.01. The present outburst also confirms the established general relativistic properties of the system such as the loss of orbital energy to gravitational radiation at the 2 % accuracy level and it opens up the possibility of testing the black hole no-hair theorem with a 10% accuracy during the present decade.

Calibration of the Liverpool Telescope RINGO3 polarimeter (arXiv full text)

We present an analysis of polarimetric observations of standard stars performed over the period of more than three years with the RINGO3 polarimeter mounted on the Liverpool Telescope. The main objective was to determine the instrumental polarisation of the RINGO3 polarimeter in three spectral energy ranges: blue (350–640 nm), green (650–760 nm) and red (770–1000 nm). The observations were conducted between 2012 and 2016. The total time span of 1126 days was split into five epochs due to the hardware changes to the observing system. Our results should be applied to calibrate all polarimetric observations performed with the RINGO3 polarimeter.

Analysis of single pulse radio flux measurements of PSR B1133+16 at 4.85 and 8.35 GHz (arXiv full text)

We show the results of microsecond resolution radio data analysis focused on flux measurements of single pulses of PSR B1133+16. The data were recorded at 4.85 GHz and 8.35 GHz with 0.5 GHz and 1.1 GHz bandwidth, respectively, using Radio Telescope Effelsberg (MPIfR). The most important conclusion of the analysis is, that the strongest single pulse emission at 4.85 GHz and 8.35 GHz contributes almost exclusively to the trailing part of the leading component of the pulsar mean profile, whereas studies at lower frequencies report that the contribution is spread almost uniformly covering all phases of the pulsar mean profile. We also estimate the radio emission heights to be around 1%-2% of the light cylinder radius which is in agreement with previous studies. Additionally these observations allowed us to add two more measurements of the flux density to the PSR B1133+16 broadband radio spectrum covering frequencies from 16.7 MHz up to 32 GHz. We fit two different models to the spectrum: the broken power law and the spectrum based on flicker noise model, which represents the spectrum in a simpler but similarly accurate way.

High-Time-Resolution Measurements of the Polarization of the Crab Pulsar at 1.38 GHz (arXiv full text)

Using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT), we obtained high-time-resolution measurements of the full (linear and circular) polarization of the Crab pulsar. Taken at a resolution of 1/8192 of the 34-ms pulse period (i.e., 4.1μs), the 1.38-GHz linear-polarization measurements are in general agreement with previous lower-time-resolution 1.4-GHz measurements of linear polarization in the main pulse (MP), in the interpulse (IP), and in the low-frequency precursor (LFP). Consistent with previous measurements, we find the MP and LP to be linearly polarized at about 24% and 21%, with no discernible difference in polarization position angle. Furthermore, we find no evidence for variation (sweep) in polarization position angle over the MP, the IP, or the LFP. However, the main pulse exhibits a small but statistically significant quadratic variation in the degree of linear polarization. In addition, we detect weak circular polarization in the main pulse and interpulse, and strong (≈20%) circular polarization in the low-frequency precursor, which also exhibits very strong(≈98%) linear polarization at a position angle about 40 degrees from that of the MP or IP. The pulse-mean polarization properties are consistent with the LFP being a low-altitude core component and the MP and IP being high-altitude caustic components. However, current models for the MP and IP emission do not readily account for the observed absence of pronounced polarization changes across the pulse.
Peripheral to the polarimetry, we find high-frequency substructure in the profile of the main pulse, presumably due to giant radio pulses. In addition, we measure IP and LFP pulse phases relative to the MP that are consistent with recent measurements, which have shown that the phases of these pulse components are evolving with time.

The HU Aqr planetary system hypothesis revisited (arXiv full text)

We study the mid-egress eclipse timing data gathered for the cataclysmic binary HU Aquarii during the years 1993-2014. The (O-C) residuals were previously attributed to a single ~7 Jupiter mass companion in ~5 au orbit or to a stable 2-planet system with an unconstrained outermost orbit. We present 22 new observations gathered between June, 2011 and July, 2014 with four instruments around the world. They reveal a systematic deviation of ~60 - 120 seconds from the older ephemeris. We re-analyse the whole set of the timing data available. Our results provide an erratum to the previous HU Aqr planetary models, indicating that the hypothesis for a third and fourth body in this system is uncertain. The dynamical stability criterion and a particular geometry of orbits rule out coplanar 2-planet configurations. A putative HU Aqr planetary system may be more complex, e.g., highly non-coplanar. Indeed, we found examples of 3-planet configurations with the middle planet in a retrograde orbit, which are stable for at least 1Gyr, and consistent with the observations. The (O-C) may be also driven by oscillations of the gravitational quadrupole moment of the secondary, as predicted by the Lanza et al. modification of the Applegate mechanism. Further systematic, long-term monitoring of HU Aqr is required to interpret the (O-C) residuals.

VLT polarimetry observations of PSR B0656+14 (arXiv full text)

Optical polarisation measurements are key tests for different models of the pulsar magnetosphere. Furthermore, comparing the relative orientation of the phase-averaged linear polarisation direction and the pulsar proper motion vector may unveil a peculiar alignment, clearly seen in the Crab pulsar. Our goal is to obtain the first measurement of the phase-averaged optical linear polarisation of the fifth brightest optical pulsar, PSR B0656+14, which has also a precisely measured proper motion, and verify a possible alignment between the polarisation direction and the proper motion vector. We carried out observations with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to measure the phase-averaged optical polarisation degree (P.D.) and position angle (P.A.) of PSR B0656+14. We measured a P.D. of 11.9% ± 5.5% and a P.A. of 125.8° ± 13.2°, measured East of North. Albeit of marginal significance, this is the first measurement of the phase-averaged optical P. D. for this pulsar. Moreover, we found that the P.A. of the phase-averaged polarisation vector is close to that of the pulsar proper motion (93.12° ± 0.38°).Deeper observations are needed to confirm our polarisation measurement of PSR B0656+14, whereas polarisation measurements for more pulsars will better assess possible correlations of the polarisation degree with the pulsar parameters.

In review

Long-term quasi-periodicity of 4U 1636-536 resulting from accretion disc instability (arXiv full text)

We present the results of a study of the low-mass X-ray binary 4U 1636-536. We have performed temporal analysis of all available RXTE/ASM, Swift/BAT and MAXI data. We have confirmed the previously discovered quasi-periodicity of ~45 d present during ~2004, however we found it continued to 2006. At other epochs, the quasi-periodicity is only transient, and the quasi-period, if present, drifts. We have then applied a time-dependent accretion disc model to the interval with the significant X-ray quasi-periodicity. For our best model, the period and the amplitude of the theoretical light curve agree well with that observed. The modelled quasi-periodicity is due to the hydrogen thermal-ionization instability occurring in outer regions of the accretion disc. The model parameters are the average mass accretion rate (estimated from the light curves), and the accretion disc viscosity parameters, for the hot and cold phases. Our best model gives relatively low values of viscosity parameter for cold phase 0.01 and for hot phase 0.03.

Conference proceedings

Review of the ultrafast time resolution photopolarimeters based on SPADs (full text)

We review photopolarimeters that are based on the Single Photon Avalanche Diodes (SPADs) and were designed, built, developed, and extensively used for high time resolution studies of astrophysical sources. Examples of such detectors are OPTIMA, GASP, AquEYE, and IquEYE which can measure the time of arrival of single optical photons with an accuracy of down to 50 picoseconds. We describe the most exciting results obtained with the SPADs detectors starting from the best existing optical polarimetric measurements of the Crab pulsar, the discovery of the first optical magnetar and its quasi-periodic oscillations, as well as a verification of exoplanets around eclipsing cataclysmic variables. Additionally, we discuss possible applications of such detectors for asteroseismology.

Search for Disks in Binary Systems with White Dwarf (full text)

Circumstellar disks seem to be present at every stage of stellar evolution, beginning from proto-stellar cores, through evolutionary advanced stages, like firstascent, asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, post-AGB objects, and ending on isolated white dwarfs (WDs). WDs are relatively recent addition to this track. The nature of disks around evolutionary advanced objects is still a matter of debate. Disks around pre-main sequence stars are very likely to be sites of planets formation. We do not know yet whether protoplanets can be formed in disks around evolutionary advanced stars. Therefore, understanding the creation, evolution and survival of such disks is a matter of primary importance. We propose a study of known disks around isolated white dwarfs and of possible disks around binary systems that containWD component with the SAFARI instrument on board of the SPICA satellite.

Fast photometry with small telescopes (full text)

Facility instruments on major telescopes rarely provide photometry on timescales into the sub-second range. The development of dedicated high-time resolution detectors that could be attached as guest instruments was therefore natural to follow up with optical observations on many highly time variable astronomical objects. Such sources were often discovered first in the radio range (e.g. pulsars, quasars) or with X- and gamma-ray satellites (X-ray binaries, cataclysmic variables, gamma-ray bursts). Although telescopes in the 4 - 8m class would be nice to have for high-time resolution astronomy (HTRA) the access is often oversubscribed. Many currently active HTRA instruments were started on smaller telescopes in the 1-3m class, which provide the flexibility and observation time needed for the observation of highly variable stars. We describe the basic detector types, i.e. fast imaging or photon counting, and current projects. Based on our experience with the fast timing photo-polarimeter OPTIMA (Optical Timing Analyzer), we review some observational constraints on meter-class telescopes. We demonstrate the ’scientific power’ of very fast photometry, done with OPTIMA and similar systems on small telescopes, with selected results for a black hole binary, an optical transient magnetar, and the Crab pulsar.

Polarimetry: theory and application in astronomy (full text)

In this talk I will review the basic properties of polarized light and introduce the Stokes vector. I will give some examples of astrophysical sources that show high polarization degree of their radiation especially in the optical range of the electromagnetic spectrum. I will also briefly describe mechanisms of polarization origins as well as methods to derive its properties. I will show some examples of working polarimeters at 1-2 meter class telescopes. Additionally, I will present some scientific results obtained from photopolarimetric, as well as spectropolarimetric observations.