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Accretion dIscs in not-so-compact binaries

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The properties of accretion discs around white dwarfs are well studied in cataclysmic variables (CVs) with orbital periods in the 1-10 hr range. Roche-geometry dictates that these discs have outer radii of less than about 1 million km. Discs in symbiotic systems (red giant-white dwarf binaries) are physically much larger, up to AU scales, but are much less well studied due to the glare of the red giant. There are also intermediate scale discs in CV-like systems with orbital periods in the 1-5 day range. I will present selected observational results that illustrate the differences among discs of different sizes, and consider the possible implications of the disc size from the obvious (luminosity, stored mass) to the speculative (how disc instability manifests itself).

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Seminars series.

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