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The Astronomical Journal


The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has already more than doubled the sample of white dwarfs with spectral classi- fications, the subset with detached M dwarf companions, and the subset of magnetic white dwarfs. In the course of assessing these new discoveries, we have noticed a curious, unexpected property of the total lists of magnetic white dwarfs and of white dwarf plus main-sequence binaries: there appears to be virtually zero overlap between the two samples! No confirmed magnetic white dwarf has yet been found in such a pairing with a main-sequence star. The same statement can be made for the samples of white dwarf–M dwarf pairs in wide, common proper motion systems. This contrasts with the situation for interacting binaries, in which an estimated 25% of the accreting systems have a magnetic white dwarf primary. Alternative explanations are discussed for the observed absence of magnetic white dwarf–main-sequence pairs, but the recent discoveries of very low accretion rate magnetic binaries pose difficulties for each. A plausible explanation may be that the presence of the companion and the likely large mass and small radius of the magnetic white dwarf (relative to nonmagnetic degenerate dwarfs) may provide a selection effect against the discovery of the latter in such binary systems. More careful analysis of the existing samples may yet uncover members of this class of binary, and the sample sizes will continue to grow. The question of whether the mass and field distributions of the magnetic primaries in interacting binaries are similar to those of the isolated magnetic white dwarfs (including those in wider binaries) must also be answered.



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