The mystery deepens: Spitzer observations of cool white dwarfs

Mukremin Kilic, Ted Von Hippel, Fergal Mullally, William T. Reach, Marc J. Kuchner, D. E. Winget, Adam S. Burrows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We present 4.5 and 8 μm photometric observations of 18 cool white dwarfs obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Our observations demonstrate that four white dwarfs with Teff < 6000 K show slightly depressed midinfrared fluxes relative to white dwarf models. In addition, another white dwarf with a peculiar optical and near-infrared spectral energy distribution (LHS 1126) is found to display significant flux deficits in Spitzer observations. These mid-infrared flux deficits are not predicted by the current white dwarf models including collision-induced absorption due to molecular hydrogen. We postulate that either the collision-induced absorption calculations are incomplete or there are other unrecognized physical processes occurring in cool white dwarf atmospheres. The spectral energy distribution of LHS 1126 surprisingly fits a Rayleigh-Jeans spectrum in the infrared, mimicking a hot white dwarf with effective temperature well in excess of 105 K. This implies that the source of this flux deficit is probably not molecular absorption but some other process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1051-1056
Number of pages6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - May 10 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Infrared: stars
  • Stars: individual (LHS 1126, WD 0038-226)
  • White dwarfs Online material: color figure


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