DETECTION OF WHITE DWARF COMPANIONS TO BLUE STRAGGLERS IN THE OPEN CLUSTER NGC 188: DIRECT EVIDENCE FOR RECENT MASS TRANSFER
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Several possible formation pathways for blue straggler stars have been
developed recently, but no one pathway has yet been observationally confirmed
for a specific blue straggler. Here we report the first findings from a Hubble
Space Telescope ACS/SBC far-UV photometric program to search for white dwarf
companions to blue straggler stars. We find three hot and young white dwarf
companions to blue straggler stars in the 7-Gyr open cluster NGC 188,
indicating that mass transfer in these systems ended less than 300 Myr ago.
These companions are direct and secure observational evidence that these blue
straggler stars were formed through mass transfer in binary stars. Their
existence in a well-studied cluster environment allows for observational
constraints of both the current binary system and the progenitor binary system,
mapping the entire mass transfer history.
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