Tidally induced apsidal precession in double white dwarfs: A new mass measurement tool with lisa

F. Valsecchi*, W. M. Farr, B. Willems, C. J. Deloye, V. Kalogera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Galactic interacting double white dwarfs (DWDs) are guaranteed gravitational wave (GW) sources for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna GW detector, with more than 104 binaries expected to be detected over the mission's lifetime. Part of this population is expected to be eccentric, and here we investigate the potential for constraining the white dwarf (WD) properties through apsidal precession in these binaries. We analyze the tidal, rotational, and general relativistic contributions to apsidal precession by using detailed He WD models, where the evolution of the star's interior is followed throughout the cooling phase. In agreement with previous studies of zero-temperature WDs, we find that apsidal precession in eccentric DWDs can lead to a detectable shift in the emitted GW signal when binaries with cool (old) components are considered. This shift increases significantly for hot (young) WDs. We find that apsidal motion in hot (cool) DWDs is dominated by tides at orbital frequencies above ≳ 10-4Hz (10-3Hz). The analysis of apsidal precession in these sources while ignoring the tidal component would lead to an extreme bias in the mass determination, and could lead us to misidentify WDs as neutron stars or black holes. We use the detailed WD models to show that for older, cold WDs, there is a unique relationship that ties the radius and apsidal precession constant to the WD masses, therefore allowing tides to be used as a tool to constrain the source masses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number137
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012


  • binaries: general
  • gravitational waves
  • stars: interiors
  • white dwarfs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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