Constraining white dwarf masses via apsidal precession in eccentric double white dwarf binaries

Francesca Valsecchi*, Will M. Farr, Bart Willems, Christopher J. Deloye, Vicky Kalogera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Galactic short period double white dwarfs (DWD) are guaranteed gravitational wave (GW) sources for the next generation of space-based interferometers sensitive to low-frequency GWs (10-4- 1 Hz). Here we investigate the possibility of constraining the white dwarf (WD) properties through measurements of apsidal precession in eccentric binaries. We analyze the general relativistic (GR), tidal, and rotational contributions to apsidal precession by using detailed He WD models. We find that apsidal precession can lead to a detectable shift in the emitted GW signal, the effect being stronger (weaker) for binaries hosting hot (cool) WDs. We find that in hot (cool) DWDs tides dominate the precession at orbital frequencies above ~0.01 mHz (~1 mHz). Analyzing the apsidal precession of these sources only accounting for GR would potentially lead to an extreme overestimate of the component masses. Finally, we derive a relation that ties the radius and apsidal precession constant of cool WD components to their masses, therefore allowing tides to be used as an additional mass measurement tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBinary Paths to Type Ia Supernovae Explosions
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages4
ISBN (Print)9781107019812
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
ISSN (Print)1743-9213
ISSN (Electronic)1743-9221


  • Close - gravitational waves
  • Stars: evolution
  • White dwarfs - binaries: general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Space and Planetary Science

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