Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1303.4270 (Magaretha L. Pretorius et al.)

The space density of magnetic cataclysmic variables    [PDF]

Magaretha L. Pretorius, Christian Knigge, Axel D. Schwope
We use the complete, X-ray flux-limited ROSAT Bright Survey (RBS) to measure the space density of magnetic cataclysmic variables (mCVs). The survey provides complete optical identification of all sources with count rate >0.2/s over half the sky ($|b|>30^\circ$), and detected 6 intermediate polars (IPs) and 24 polars. If we assume that the 30 mCVs included in the RBS are representative of the intrinsic population, the space density of mCVs is $8^{+4}_{-2} \times 10^{-7}\,{\rmpc^{-3}}$. Considering polars and IPs separately, we find $\rho_{polar}=5^{+3}_{-2} \times 10^{-7}\,{\rm pc^{-3}}$ and $\rho_{IP}=3^{+2}_{-1} \times 10^{-7}\,{\rm pc^{-3}}$. Allowing for a 50% high-state duty cycle for polars (and assuming that these systems are below the RBS detection limit during their low states) doubles our estimate of $\rho_{polar}$ and brings the total space density of mCVs to $1.3^{+0.6}_{-0.4} \times 10^{-6}\,{\rm pc^{-3}}$. We also place upper limits on the sizes of faint (but persistent) mCV populations that might have escaped detection in the RBS. Although the large uncertainties in the $\rho$ estimates prevent us from drawing strong conclusions, we discuss the implications of our results for the evolutionary relationship between IPs and polars, the fraction of CVs with strongly magnetic white dwarfs (WDs), and for the contribution of mCVs to Galactic populations of hard X-ray sources at $L_X \ga 10^{31} {\rm erg/s}$. Our space density estimates are consistent with the very simple model where long-period IPs evolve into polars and account for the whole short-period polar population. We find that the fraction of WDs that are strongly magnetic is not significantly higher for CV primaries than for isolated WDs. Finally, the space density of IPs is sufficiently high to explain the bright, hard X-ray source population in the Galactic Centre.
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