S. P. Littlefair - University of Sheffield

S. P. Littlefair
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S. P. Littlefair
University of Sheffield
United Kingdom

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Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (41)
Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (11)
Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (4)
High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (4)
Astrophysics of Galaxies (3)
Physics - Plasma Physics (1)
Physics - Geophysics (1)
High Energy Physics - Experiment (1)
Physics - Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics (1)

Publications Authored By S. P. Littlefair

Affiliations: 1California Institute of Technology, 2Radboud University Nijmegen, 3University of California, Santa Barbara, 4University of Tuebingen, 5University of Warwick, 6Radboud University Nijmegen, 7Radboud University Nijmegen, 8California Institute of Technology, 9California Institute of Technology, 10University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, 11University of California, Santa Barbara, 12Northwestern University, 13University of Sheffield, 14University of Sheffield, 15University of Warwick, 16National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, 17Spitzer Science Center, Caltech, 18University of Sheffield, 19Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, Caltech, 20California Institute of Technology, 21University of Sheffield, 22University of Cambridge

We present the discovery of the hot subdwarf B star (sdB) binary PTF1 J082340.04+081936.5. Read More

We present new time-resolved photometry of 74 cataclysmic variables (CVs), 47 of which are eclipsing. 13 of these eclipsing systems are newly discovered. For all 47 eclipsing systems we show high cadence (1-20 seconds) light curves obtained with the high-speed cameras ultracam and ultraspec. Read More

After more than 26 years in quiescence, the black hole transient V404 Cyg went into a luminous outburst in June 2015, and additional activity was detected in late December of the same year. Here, we present an optical spectroscopic follow-up of the December mini-outburst, together with X-ray, optical and radio monitoring that spanned more than a month. Strong flares with gradually increasing intensity are detected in the three spectral ranges during the ~10 days following the Swift trigger. Read More

The majority of cataclysmic variable (CV) stars contain a stochastic noise component in their light curves, commonly referred to as flickering. This can significantly affect the morphology of CV eclipses and increases the difficulty in obtaining accurate system parameters with reliable errors through eclipse modelling. Here we introduce a new approach to eclipse modelling, which models CV flickering with the help of Gaussian processes (GPs). Read More

We have measured the transmission spectrum of the extremely inflated hot Jupiter WASP-52b using simultaneous photometric observations in SDSS u', g' and a filter centred on the sodium doublet (NaI) with the ULTRACAM instrument mounted on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope. We find that Rayleigh scattering is not the dominant source of opacity within the planetary atmosphere and find a transmission spectrum more consistent with wavelength-independent opacity such as from clouds. Read More

We have conducted a mini-survey for low-frequency radio emission from some of the closest brown dwarfs to the Sun with rapid rotation rates: SIMP J013656.5+093347, WISEPC J150649.97+702736. Read More

White dwarfs are compact stars, similar in size to Earth but ~200,000 times more massive. Isolated white dwarfs emit most of their power from ultraviolet to near-infrared wavelengths, but when in close orbits with less dense stars, white dwarfs can strip material from their companions, and the resulting mass transfer can generate atomic line and X-ray emission, as well as near- and mid-infrared radiation if the white dwarf is magnetic. However, even in binaries, white dwarfs are rarely detected at far-infrared or radio frequencies. Read More

We present long-term photometric observations of the young open cluster IC 348 with a baseline time-scale of 2.4 yr. Our study was conducted with several telescopes from the Young Exoplanet Transit Initiative (YETI) network in the Bessel $R$ band to find periodic variability of young stars. Read More

We present a long-term programme for timing the eclipses of white dwarfs in close binaries to measure apparent and/or real variations in their orbital periods. Our programme includes 67 close binaries, both detached and semi-detached and with M-dwarfs, K-dwarfs, brown dwarfs or white dwarfs secondaries. In total, we have observed more than 650 white dwarf eclipses. Read More

Brown dwarfs and giant planets orbiting close to a host star are subjected to significant irradiation that can modify the properties of their atmospheres. In order to test the atmospheric models that are used to describe these systems, it is necessary to obtain accurate observational estimates of their physical properties (masses, radii, temperatures, albedos). Interacting compact binary systems provide a natural laboratory for studying strongly irradiated sub-stellar objects. Read More

We present observations of rapid (sub-second) optical flux variability in V404 Cyg during its 2015 June outburst. Simultaneous three-band observations with the ULTRACAM fast imager on four nights show steep power spectra dominated by slow variations on ~100-1000s timescales. Near the peak of the outburst on June 26, a dramatic change occurs and additional, persistent sub-second optical flaring appears close in time to giant radio and X-ray flaring. Read More

We present high speed photometry and high resolution spectroscopy of the eclipsing post common envelope binary QS Virginis (QS Vir). Our 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 timescale of days, they persist for more than a year and may last decades. Read More

We present an extensive survey for rapid pulsators among Extreme Horizontal Branch (EHB) stars in omega Cen. The observations performed consist of nearly 100 hours of time-series photometry, as well as low-resolution spectroscopy. We obtained photometry for some 300 EHB stars. Read More

We report results of the first five observing campaigns for the open stellar cluster NGC 7243 in the frame of project Young Exoplanet Transit Initiative (YETI). The project focuses on the monitoring of young and nearby stellar clusters, with the aim to detect young transiting exoplanets, and to study other variability phenomena on time-scales from minutes to years. After five observing campaigns and additional observations during 2013 and 2014, a clear and repeating transit-like signal was detected in the light curve of J221550. Read More

Detailed observations of the solar system planets reveal a wide variety of local atmospheric conditions. Astronomical observations have revealed a variety of extrasolar planets none of which resembles any of the solar system planets in full. Instead, the most massive amongst the extrasolar planets, the gas giants, appear very similar to the class of (young) Brown Dwarfs which are amongst the oldest objects in the universe. Read More

We obtained high-speed photometry of the disintegrating planetesimals orbiting the white dwarf WD1145+017, spanning a period of four weeks. The light curves show a dramatic evolution of the system since the first observations obtained about seven months ago. Multiple transit events are detected in every light curve, which have varying durations(~3-12min) and depths (~10-60%). Read More

SDSS J1021+1744 is a detached, eclipsing white dwarf / M dwarf binary discovered in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Outside the primary eclipse, the light curves of such systems are usually smooth and characterised by low-level variations caused by tidal distortion and heating of the M star component. Early data on SDSS J1021+1744 obtained in June 2012 was unusual in showing a dip in flux of uncertain origin shortly after the white dwarf's eclipse. Read More

Affiliations: 1Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 2Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, 3Division of Computing and Mathematics, Abertay University, 4Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, 5SUPA, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St. Andrews, 6Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

The well-studied M9 dwarf TVLM 513-46546 is a rapid rotator (P_rot ~ 2 hr) hosting a stable, dipolar magnetic field of ~3 kG surface strength. Here we report its detection with ALMA at 95 GHz at a mean flux density of $56 \pm 12$ uJy, making it the first ultracool dwarf detected in the millimeter band, excluding young, disk-bearing objects. We also report flux density measurements from unpublished archival VLA data and new optical monitoring data from the Liverpool Telescope. Read More

We report on the discovery of an eclipsing dwarf nova (DN) inside the peculiar, bilobed nebula Te 11. Modelling of high-speed photometry of the eclipse finds the accreting white dwarf to have a mass 1.18 M$_\odot$ and temperature 13 kK. Read More

Context. Photometric monitoring of the variability of brown dwarfs can provide useful information about the structure of clouds in their cold atmospheres. The brown-dwarf binary system Luhman 16AB is an interesting target for such a study, as its components stand at the L/T transition and show high levels of variability. Read More

Affiliations: 1Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, UK, 2Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, Department of Physics, University of Durham, UK, 3Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, UK, 4Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, UK, 5Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, Department of Physics, University of Durham, UK

pt5m is a 0.5m robotic telescope located on the roof of the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT) building, at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma. Read More

Aurorae are detected from all the magnetized planets in our Solar System, including Earth. They are powered by magnetospheric current systems that lead to the precipitation of energetic electrons into the high-latitude regions of the upper atmosphere. In the case of the gas-giant planets, these aurorae include highly polarized radio emission at kilohertz and megahertz frequencies produced by the precipitating electrons, as well as continuum and line emission in the infrared, optical, ultraviolet and X-ray parts of the spectrum, associated with the collisional excitation and heating of the hydrogen-dominated atmosphere. Read More


We present time-resolved optical photometry of the binary millisecond `redback' pulsar PSR J1023+0038 (=AY Sex) during its low-mass X-ray binary phase. The light curves taken between 2014 January and April show an underlying sinusoidal modulation due to the irradiated secondary star and accretion disc. We also observe superimposed rapid flaring on time-scales as short as ~20 s with amplitudes of ~0. Read More

We report the discovery and characterisation of a deeply eclipsing AM CVn-system, Gaia14aae (= ASSASN-14cn). Gaia14aae was identified independently by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN; Shappee et al. 2014) and by the Gaia Science Alerts project, during two separate outbursts. Read More

Affiliations: 1Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 2Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 3Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK, 4Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 5Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 6Department of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University, Australia, 7Department of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, 8Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 9Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 10Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK, 11Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 12Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 13Departmento de Fisica y Astronomia, Universidad de Valparaiso, Valparaiso, Chile, 14Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 15Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 16Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 17Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

We present high-speed, three-colour photometry of the eclipsing dwarf nova PHL 1445, which, with an orbital period of 76.3 min, lies just below the period minimum of ~82 min for cataclysmic variable stars. Averaging four eclipses reveals resolved eclipses of the white dwarf and bright spot. Read More

We report on the search for new eclipsing white dwarf plus main-sequence (WDMS) binaries in the light curves of the Catalina surveys. We use a colour selected list of almost 2000 candidate WDMS systems from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, specifically designed to identify WDMS systems with cool white dwarfs and/or early M type main-sequence stars. We identify a total of 17 eclipsing systems, 14 of which are new discoveries. Read More

We present simultaneous multi-color optical photometry using ULTRACAM of the transiting exoplanet KIC 12557548 b (also known as KIC 1255 b). This reveals, for the first time, the color dependence of the transit depth. Our g and z transits are similar in shape to the average Kepler short-cadence profile, and constitute the highest-quality extant coverage of individual transits. Read More

WD0137-349 is a white dwarf-brown dwarf binary system in a 116 minute orbit. We present radial velocity observations and multiwaveband photometry from V, R and I in the optical, to J, H and Ks in the near-IR and [3.6], [4. Read More

We present the first results of a dedicated search for pulsating white dwarfs (WDs) in detached white dwarf plus main-sequence binaries. Candidate systems were selected from a catalogue of WD+MS binaries, based on the surface gravities and effective temperatures of the WDs. We observed a total of 26 systems using ULTRACAM mounted on ESO's 3. Read More

We report on a pilot study of a novel observing technique, defocussed transmission spectroscopy, and its application to the study of exoplanet atmospheres using ground-based platforms. Similar to defocussed photometry, defocussed transmission spectroscopy has an added advantage over normal spectroscopy in that it reduces systematic errors due to flat-fielding, PSF variations, slit-jaw imperfections and other effects associated with ground-based observations. For one of the planetary systems studied, WASP-12b, we report a tentative detection of additional Na absorption of 0. Read More

Affiliations: 1Warwick, 2Warwick, 3Warwick, 4LMJU, 5Sheffield, 6NARIT, 7Sheffield, 8Valparaiso, 9NARIT

We present new eclipse observations of the polar (i.e. semi-detached magnetic white dwarf + M-dwarf binary) HU Aqr, and mid-egress times for each eclipse, which continue to be observed increasingly early. Read More

We present high time resolution SDSS-$g'$ and SDSS-$z'$ light curves of the primary eclipse in SDSS J141126.20+200911.1, together with time-resolved X-Shooter spectroscopy and near-infrared $JHK_{s}$ photometry. Read More

ULTRASPEC is a high-speed imaging photometer mounted permanently at one of the Nasmyth focii of the 2.4-m Thai National Telescope (TNT) on Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain. ULTRASPEC employs a 1024x1024 pixel frame-transfer, electron-multiplying CCD (EMCCD) in conjunction with re-imaging optics to image a field of 7. Read More

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, we detail the first abundance analysis enabled by far-ultraviolet spectroscopy of a low-mass (~0.19 Msun) white dwarf (WD), GALEX J1717+6757, which is in a 5.9-hr binary with a fainter, more-massive companion. Read More

We present high-speed, three-colour photometry of the eclipsing dwarf nova KIS J192748.53+444724.5 which is located in the Kepler field. Read More

The close proximity of short period hot-Jupiters to their parent star means they are subject to extreme tidal forces. This has a profound effect on their structure and, as a result, density measurements that assume that the planet is spherical can be incorrect. We have simulated the tidally distorted surface for 34 known short period hot-Jupiters, assuming surfaces of constant gravitational equipotential for the planet, and the resulting densities have been calculated based only on observed parameters of the exoplanet systems. Read More

We have obtained low and medium resolution spectra of 9 brown dwarf candidate members of Coma Berenices and the Hyades using SpEX on the NASA InfaRed Telescope Facility and LIRIS on the William Herschel Telescope. We conclude that 7 of these objects are indeed late M or early L dwarfs, and that two are likely members of Coma Berenices, and four of the Hyades. Two objects, cbd40 and Hy3 are suggested to be a field L dwarfs, although there is also a possibility that Hy3 is an unresolved binary belonging to the cluster. Read More

We present ULTRACAM photometry and X-Shooter spectroscopy of the eclipsing double white dwarf binary CSS 41177, the only such system that is also a double-lined spectroscopic binary. Combined modelling of the light curves and radial velocities yield masses and radii for both white dwarfs without the need to assume mass-radius relations. We find that the primary white dwarf has a mass of M1 = 0. Read More

We present high-quality ULTRACAM photometry of the eclipsing detached double-white dwarf binary NLTT 11748. This system consists of a carbon/oxygen white dwarf and an extremely-low mass (< 0.2 Msun) helium-core white dwarf in a 5. Read More

The eclipsing white dwarf plus main-sequence binary NN Serpentis provides one of the most convincing cases for the existence of circumbinary planets around evolved binaries. The exquisite timing precision provided by the deep eclipse of the white dwarf has revealed complex variations in the eclipse arrival times over the last few decades. These variations have been interpreted as the influence of two planets in orbit around the binary. Read More

We present ground-based high-precision observations of the transit of WASP-17b using the multi-band photometer ULTRACAM on ESO's NTT in the context of performing transmission spectrophotometry of this highly inflated exoplanet. Our choice of filters (SDSS u', g' and r' bands) is designed to probe for the presence of opacity sources in the upper atmosphere. We find evidence for a wavelength dependence in the planet radius in the form of enhanced absorption in the SDSS r' band, consistent with a previously detected broad sodium feature. Read More

The project Massive Unseen Companions to Hot Faint Underluminous Stars from SDSS (muchfuss) aims to discover subdwarf-B stars with massive compact companions such as overmassive white dwarfs (M > 1.0 M_sun), neutron stars or black holes. From the 127 subdwarfs with substantial radial-velocity variations discovered in the initial survey, a number of interesting objects have been selected for extensive follow-up. Read More

We present 25 new eclipse times of the white dwarf binary NN Ser taken with the high-speed camera ULTRACAM on the WHT and NTT, the RISE camera on the Liverpool Telescope, and HAWK-I on the VLT to test the two-planet model proposed to explain variations in its eclipse times measured over the last 25 years. The planetary model survives the test with flying colours, correctly predicting a progressive lag in eclipse times of 36 seconds that has set in since 2010 compared to the previous 8 years of precise times. Allowing both orbits to be eccentric, we find orbital periods of 7. Read More

SDSS J030308.35+005444.1 is a close, detached, eclipsing white dwarf plus M dwarf binary which shows a large infrared excess which has been interpreted in terms of a circumbinary dust disk. Read More

We started a new project which aims to find compact hot subdwarf binaries at low Galactic latitudes. Targets are selected from several photometric surveys and a spectroscopic follow-up campaign to find radial velocity variations on timescales as short as tens of minutes has been started. Once radial variations are detected phase-resolved spectroscopy is obtained to measure the radial velocity curve and the mass function of the system. Read More

A method is defined for identifying late T and Y dwarfs in WISE down to low values of signal-to-noise. This requires a WISE detection only in the W2-band and uses the statistical properties of the WISE multi-frame measurements and profile fit photometry to reject contamination resulting from non-point-like objects, variables and moving sources. To trace our desired parameter space we use a control sample of isolated non-moving non-variable point sources from the SDSS, and identify a sample of 158 WISE W2-only candidates down to a signal-to-noise limit of 8. Read More

We present z'-band secondary eclipse photometry of the highly irradiated hot Jupiter WASP-12b using ULTRACAM on the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope. We measure a decrease in flux of \delta = 0. Read More

Low mass white dwarfs are the remnants of disrupted red giant stars in binary millisecond pulsars and other exotic binary star systems. Some low mass white dwarfs cool rapidly, while others stay bright for millions of years due to stable fusion in thick surface hydrogen layers. This dichotomy is not well understood so their potential use as independent clocks to test the spin-down ages of pulsars or as probes of the extreme environments in which low mass white dwarfs form cannot be fully exploited. Read More