Indications of a large fraction of spectroscopic binaries among nuclei of planetary nebulae

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Previous work indicates that about 10% of planetary-nebula nuclei (PNNi) are photometrically variable short-period binaries with periods of hours to a few days. These systems have most likely descended from common-envelope (CE) interactions in initially much wider binaries. Population-synthesis studies suggest that these very close pairs could be the short-period tail of a much larger post-CE binary population with periods of up to a few months. We have initiated a radial-velocity (RV) survey of PNNi with the WIYN 3.5 m telescope and Hydra spectrograph, which is aimed at discovering these intermediate-period binaries. We present initial results showing that 10 out of 11 well-observed PNNi have variable RVs, suggesting that a significant binary population may be present. However, further observations are required because we have as yet been unable to fit our sparse measurements with definite orbital periods and because some of the RV variability might be due to variations in the stellar winds of some of our PNNi.

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Astrophysical Journal