This award will support a study of brightness variations in cataclysmic variables (CVs) seen in data from the Kepler satellite. Cataclysmic variables are binary stars in which material is flowing from an evolved companion onto a white dwarf; the flow contributes to the maintenance of an accretion disk around the white dwarf. The Kepler data has unprecedented time sampling and span, which should reveal brightness variations on many different time scales. The major components of the project are (1) to convert a public domain general purpose hydrodynamical code to an accretion disk simulation code, which will be distributed to the astronomical community; (2) to model the complexity of brightness variations as indicators of the nature of the plasma flow; and (3) to accurately model the radiation hydrodynamics and emergent spectral energy distribution of CV accretion.
The work is expected to improve the understanding of gaseous flow around compact objects, which in turn will she light on many astrophysical phenomena including the production of supernovae. The public release of numerical codes will aid future research in CVs and other areas of study.