Subdwarf B star

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Schematic cross-section of a B-type subdwarf

A B-type subdwarf (sdB) is a kind of subdwarf with spectral type B. They differ from the typical subdwarf by being much hotter and brighter.[1] They are situated at the "extreme horizontal branch" of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Masses of these stars are around 0.5 solar masses, and they contain only about 1% hydrogen, with the rest being helium. Their radius is from 0.15 to 0.25 solar radii, and their temperature is from 20,000 to 40,000K.

These stars represent a late stage in the evolution of some stars, caused when a red giant star loses its outer hydrogen layers before the core begins to fuse helium. The reasons why this premature mass loss occurs are unclear, but the interaction of stars in a binary star system is thought to be one of the main mechanisms. Single subdwarfs may be the result of a merger of two white dwarfs. The sdB stars are expected to become white dwarfs without going through any more giant stages.

Subdwarf B stars, being more luminous than white dwarfs, are a significant component in the hot star population of old stellar systems, such as globular clusters, spiral galaxy bulges and elliptical galaxies.[2] They are prominent on ultraviolet images. The hot subdwarfs are proposed to be the cause of the UV-upturn in the light output of elliptical galaxies.[1]


Subdwarf B stars were discovered by Zwicky and Humason around 1947 when they found subluminous blue stars around the north galactic pole. In the Palomar-Green survey they were discovered to be the commonest kind of faint blue star with a magnitude over 18. During the 1960s spectroscopy discovered that many of the sdB stars are deficient in hydrogen, with abundances below that predicted by the big bang theory. In the early 1970s Greenstein and Sargent measured temperatures and gravity strengths and were able to plot their correct position on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram.[1]


There are three kinds of variable stars in this category:

Firstly there are the sdBV with periods from 90 to 600 seconds. They are also called EC14026 or V361 Hya stars. A proposed new nomenclature is sdBVr, with r standing for rapid.[3] The Charpinet theory of the oscillations of these stars is that the variations in brightness are due to acoustic mode oscillations with low degree (l) and low order (n). It is driven by ionisation of iron group atoms causing opacity. The velocity curve is 90 degrees out of phase with the brightness curve, while the effective temperature and surface gravity acceleration curves appear to be in phase with the flux variations. In plot of temperature vs. surface gravity, the short-period pulsators cluster together in the so-called empirical instability strip, approximately defined by T=28000–35000 K and log g=5.2–6.0. Only 10% of sdBs falling in the empirical strip are observed to pulsate.

Secondly there are the long period variables with periods from 45 to 180 minutes. A proposed new nomenclature is sdBVs, with s standing for slow.[3] These only have a very small variation of 0.1%. They have also been called PG1716 or V1093 Her or abbreviated as LPsdBV. Yet another colloquial name for these is Betsy stars.[4] The long-period pulsating sdB stars are generally cooler than their rapid counterparts, with T~23000–30000K.

Stars that oscillate in both period regimes are 'hybrids', with a standard nomenclature of sdBVrs. A prototype is DW Lyn also identified as HS 0702+6043.[3]

variable star Other name Constellation Distance (ly)
V361 Hydrae EC 14026-2647 Hydra  ?
V1093 Herculis GSC 03081-00631 Hercules  ?
HW Virginis* HIP 62157 Virgo 590
NY Virginis* GSC 04966-00491 Virgo  ?
V391 Pegasi HS 2201+2610 Pegasus 4570

*eclipsing binary star

Planetary systems[edit]

At least two sdB stars are known to have planets. V391 Pegasi was the first known sdB planet-host, and Kepler-70 has a system of close-orbiting planets that may be the remnants of a giant planet that was engulfed by the red giant progenitor.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Heber, Ulrich (September 2009). "Hot Subdwarf Stars" (PDF). Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 47: 211–251. Bibcode:2009ARA&A..47..211H. doi:10.1146/annurev-astro-082708-101836. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Jeffery, C. S. (2005). "Pulsations in Subdwarf B Stars". Journal of Astrophysics and Astronomy. 26 (2–3): 261. Bibcode:2005JApA...26..261J. doi:10.1007/BF02702334. 
  3. ^ a b c D. Kilkenny; Fontaine, G.; Green, E. M.; Schuh, S. (8 March 2010). "A Proposed Uniform Nomenclature for Pulsating Hot Subdwarf Stars". Commissions 27 and 42 of the IAU: Information Bulletin on Variable Stars. 5927 (5927): 1. Bibcode:2010IBVS.5927....1K. 
  4. ^ Rey, Raquel Obeiro. "Asterosismology of Hot Subdwarf Stars" (PDF). Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Charpinet, S.; et al. (December 21, 2011), "A compact system of small planets around a former red-giant star", Nature, 480 (7378): 496–499, Bibcode:2011Natur.480..496C, doi:10.1038/nature10631, PMID 22193103