The crowded magnetosphere of the post-common-envelope binary QS Virginis

S. G. Parsons, C. A. Hill, T. R. Marsh, B. T. Gänsicke, C. A. Watson, D. Steeghs, V. S. Dhillon, S. P. Littlefair, C. M. Copperwheat, M. R. Schreiber, M. Zorotovic

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We present high-speed photometry and high-resolution spectroscopy of the eclipsing post-common-envelope binary QS Virginis (QS Vir). Our Ultraviolet and Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) spectra span multiple orbits over more than a year and reveal the presence of several large prominences passing in front of both the M star and its white dwarf companion, allowing us to triangulate their positions. Despite showing small variations on a time-scale of days, they persist for more than a year and may last decades. One large prominence extends almost three stellar radii from the M star. Roche tomography reveals that the M star is heavily spotted and that these spots are long-lived and in relatively fixed locations, preferentially found on the hemisphere facing the white dwarf. We also determine precise binary and physical parameters for the system. We find that the 14 220 ± 350 K white dwarf is relatively massive, 0.782 ± 0.013 M⊙, and has a radius of 0.010 68 ± 0.000 07 R⊙, consistent with evolutionary models. The tidally distorted M star has a mass of 0.382 ± 0.006 M⊙ and a radius of 0.381 ± 0.003 R⊙, also consistent with evolutionary models. We find that the magnesium absorption line from the white dwarf is broader than expected. This could be due to rotation (implying a spin period of only ˜700 s), or due to a weak (˜100 kG) magnetic field, we favour the latter interpretation. Since the M star's radius is still within its Roche lobe and there is no evidence that it is overinflated, we conclude that QS Vir is most likely a pre-cataclysmic binary just about to become semidetached.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2793-2812
Number of pages20
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date07 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2016


  • binaries: eclipsing
  • stars: fundamental parameters
  • stars: late-type
  • white dwarfs

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