August 11-15, 2014


Deriving the Ages of Field White Dwarfs with Hydrogen, Helium, and Mixed Atmospheres

Aaron Webster (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University)

Aaron Webster, Ted von Hippel, Shijing Si, David van Dyk, Michael Montgomery, Elliot Robinson, David Stenning, Nathan Stein, Elizabeth Jeffery, Bill Jefferys, Erin O'Malley

We apply a self-consistent and robust Bayesian statistical approach along with a range of modern model ingredients to determine the ages, distances, and ZAMS masses of old field white dwarfs with hydrogen, helium, and mixed atmosphere types. We find that age, distance, and ZAMS mass are correlated in a manner that is too complex to be captured by traditional error propagation techniques. In cases where we can determine the composition of the atmosphere, our technique requires only quality optical and near-IR photometry to derive ages with < 15% uncertainties, often with little sensitivity to our choice of modern initial-final mass relation. We additionally predict the capabilities of this technique to derive WD ages and atmospheric types in the GAIA era, when thousands of WDs will have distances accurate to <2%.

Mode of presentation: poster