An X-Ray Study of the White Dwarf Binary AR Scorpii

J. Takata, X. F. Wang, H. H. Wang, L. C.C. Lin, C. P. Hu, K. L. Li, A. K.H. Kong

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3 Citations (Scopus)


We report a study of X-ray emission from the white dwarf/M-type star binary system AR Scorpii using archival data taken in 2016-2020. It has been known that the X-ray emission is dominated by optically thin thermal plasma emission and its flux level varies significantly over the orbital phase. The X-ray emission also contains a component that modulates with the beat frequency between the white dwarf's spin frequency and orbital frequency. In this new analysis, the 2020 data taken by NICER shows that the X-ray emission modulates with the spin frequency as well as with the beat frequency, indicating that part of the X-ray emission comes from the white dwarf's magnetosphere. It is found that the signal of the spin frequency appears only at a specific orbital phase, while the beat signal appears over the orbital phase. We interpret the X-ray emission modulating with the spin frequency and the beat frequency as a result of synchrotron emission from electrons with smaller and larger pitch angles, respectively. In the long-term evolution, the beat pulse profile averaged over the orbital phase changes from a single-peak structure in 2016/2018 to a double-peak structure in 2020. The observed X-ray flux levels measured in 2016/2017 are higher than those measured in 2018/2020. The plasma temperature and the amplitude of the orbital waveform might vary with time too. These results indicate that the X-ray emission from AR Scorpii evolves on a timescale of years. This long-term evolution would be explained by a superorbital modulation related to, for example, a precession of the white dwarf or a fluctuation of the system related to the activity of the companion star.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Feb 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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