CBA Center for Backyard Astrophysics

The Remarkable Eclipsing Asynchronous AM Herculis Binary RX J19402-1025

Joseph Patterson, David Skillman, John Thorstensen, and Coel Hellier

Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

April 1995, Volume 107, Page 307

We report on two years of photometric and spectroscopic observation of the recently discovered AM Herculis star RX J19402-1025. A sharp eclipse feature is present in the optical and X-ray light curves, repeating with a period of 12116.290 ± 0.003 s. The out-of-eclipse optical waveform contains approximately equal contributions from a signal at the same period and another signal at 12150 s. As these signals drift in and out of phase, the waveform of the light curve changes in a complex but predictable manner. After one entire "super-cycle" of 50 days (the beat period between the shorter periods), the light curve returns to its initial shape. We present long-term ephemerides for each of these periods.

It is highly probable that the eclipse period is the underlying orbital period, while the magnetic white dwarf rotates with P = 12150 s. The eclipses appear to be eclipses of the white dwarf by the secondary star. But there is probably also a small obscuring effect from cold gas surrounding the secondary, especially on the orbit-leading side where the stream begins to fall towards the white dwarf. The latter hypothesis can account for several puzzling effects in this star, as well as the tendency among most AM Her stars for the sharp emission-line components to slightly precede the actual motion of the secondary.

The presence of eclipses in an asynchronous AM Her star provides a marvelous opportunity to study how changes in the orientation of magnetic field lines affect the accretion flows. Repeated polarimetric light curves and high-resolution studies of the emission lines are now critical to exploit this potential.



Copyright © 1995 Astronomical Society of the Pacific.