The spectral energy distribution of polars


Magnetic cataclysmic variables, also called AM Her stars or 'polars', are close binaries with mass transfer (accretion), consisting of a late-type main-sequence star (commonly called secondary)and a more massive white dwarf with a strong magnetic field. The late-type star is losing mass to the white dwarf. The overflowing matter firstly follows a ballistic trajectory and is then captured by the magnetic field of the white dwarf and guided along the field lines onto the white dwarf. The released gravitational energy is radiated away in all wavelength ranges from infra-red to X-ray. The observed light of an AM Her system is composed of the contributions from the stellar components and the contributions of the accretion column and the accretion region on the white dwarf. The last two components are not only depending on the actual mass transfer rate but also from the spatial orientation of the magnetic field. Since the white dwarf is locked in synchronous rotation, this leads to emission that varies with orbital phase. The decomposition of the observed light from an AM Her system makes it possible to analyse the different components within this system...
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