May 2014 • 2014ApJ...786...68H
Abstract • Nova-like (NL) cataclysmic variables have persistently high mass transfer rates and prominent steady state accretion disks. We present an analysis of infrared observations of 12 NLs obtained from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer All Sky Survey. The presence of an infrared excess at λ >~ 3-5 μm over the expectation of a theoretical steady state accretion disk is ubiquitous in our sample. The strength of the infrared excess is not correlated with orbital period, but shows a statistically significant correlation (but shallow trend) with system inclination that might be partially (but not completely) linked to the increasing view of the cooler outer accretion disk and disk rim at higher inclinations. We discuss the possible origin of the infrared excess in terms of emission from bremsstrahlung or circumbinary dust, with either mechanism facilitated by the mass outflows (e.g., disk wind/corona, accretion stream overflow, and so on) present in NLs. Our comparison of the relative advantages and disadvantages of either mechanism for explaining the observations suggests that the situation is rather ambiguous, largely circumstantial, and in need of stricter observational constraints.