Using NASA’s TESS Mission to Search for Extremely Low Mass White Dwarf Stars


     Extremely low-mass white dwarf stars (ELM) are white dwarf stars with a mass lower than 0.45M  that could not have evolved through normal processes within the lifetime of our universe. Therefore, these objects can only be created through a common envelope phase or a stable Roche lobe overflow while in a binary (Pelisoli & Vos 2019). These objects have periods between a few minutes to a few hours, so they are very short lived which makes them very rare. Our goal for this project was to find these ELM stars by using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) data. We analyzed this data and did follow-up research using ZTF, SDSS, and our own observations. Through our research, we were able to find 2 ELMs, 5 WD+dM binaries, and 4 cataclysmic variables. These ELMs are sources of persistent gravitational waves that will be detectable by future space-based missions.

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Corinna Peña
Undergraduate Student | More By This Author

Corinna Peña is a senior at Butler University majoring in astrophysics and physics with a minor in mathematics. Following graduation, she hopes to go to graduate school and earn a PhD in astrophysics to further conduct research in a private or government research facility.

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