Kepler's ultra-high precision photometry is revolutionizing stellar astrophysics. We are seeing intrinsic phenomena on an unprecedented scale, and interpreting them is both a challenge and an exciting privilege. Eclipsing binary stars are of particular significance for stellar astrophysics because precise modeling leads to fundamental parameters of the orbiting components: masses, radii, temperatures and luminosities to better than 1-2%. On top of that, eclipsing binaries are ideal physical laboratories for studying other physical phenomena, such as asteroseismic properties, chromospheric activity, proximity effects, mass transfer in close binaries, etc. Because of the eclipses, the basic geometry is well constrained, but a follow-up spectroscopy is required to get the dynamical masses and the absolute scale of the system. A conjunction of Kepler photometry and ground- based spectroscopy is a treasure trove for eclipsing binary star astrophysics. This proposal focuses on a carefully selected set of 100 short period eclipsing binary stars. The fundamental goal of the project is to study the intrinsic astrophysical effects typical of short period binaries in great detail, utilizing Kepler photometry and follow-up spectroscopy to devise a robust and consistent set of modeling results. The complementing spectroscopy is being secured from 3 approved and fully funded programs: the NOAO 4-m echelle spectroscopy at Kitt Peak (30 nights; PI Prsa), the 10- m Hobby-Eberly Telescope high-resolution spectroscopy (PI Mahadevan), and the 2.5-m Sloan Digital Sky Survey III spectroscopy (PI Mahadevan). The targets are prioritized by the projected scientific yield. Short period detached binaries host low-mass (K- and M- type) components for which the mass-radius relationship is sparsely populated and still poorly understood, as the radii appear up to 20% larger than predicted by the population models. We demonstrate the spectroscopic detection viability in the secondary-to-primary light ratio regime of ~1-2% for the circumbinary host system Kepler-16. Semi-detached binaries are ideal targets to study the dynamical processes such as mass flow and accretion, and the associated thermal processes such as intensity variation due to distortion of the lobe-filling component and material inflow collisions with accretion disks. Overcontact binaries are very abundant, yet their evolution and radiative properties are poorly understood and conflicting theories exist to explain their population frequency and structure. In addition, we will measure eclipse timing variations for all program binaries that attest to the presence of perturbing third bodies (stellar and substellar!) or dynamical interaction between the components. By a dedicated, detailed, manual modeling of these sets of targets, we will be able to use Kepler's ultra-high precision photometry to a rewarding scientific end. Thanks to the unprecedented quality of Kepler data, this will be a highly focused effort that maximizes the scientific yield and the reliability of the results. Our team has ample experience dealing with Kepler data (PI Prsa serves as chair of the Eclipsing Binary Working Group in the Kepler Science Team), spectroscopic follow-up (Co-Is Mahadevan and Bender both have experience with radial velocity instrumentation and large spectroscopic surveys), and eclipsing binary modeling (PI Prsa and Co-I Devinney both have a long record of theoretical and computational development of modeling tools). The bulk of funding we are requesting is for two postdoctoral research fellows to conduct this work at 0.5 FTE/year each, for the total of 2 years.
NASA ADAP Proposal
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