• binaries: close;
  • stars: individual: KIC 6614501;
  • subdwarfs;
  • white dwarfs


We have used 605 days of photometric data from the Kepler spacecraft to study KIC 6614501, a close binary system with an orbital period of 0.157 497 47(25) days (3.779 939 h), that consists of a low-mass subdwarf B (sdB) star and a white dwarf (WD). As seen in many other similar systems, the gravitational field of the WD produces an ellipsoidal deformation of the sdB which appears in the light curve as a modulation at two times the orbital frequency. The ellipsoidal deformation of the sdB implies that the system has a maximum inclination of ∼40°, with i ≈ 20° being the most likely. The orbital radial velocity (RV) of the sdB star is high enough to produce a Doppler beaming effect with an amplitude of 432 ± 5 ppm, clearly visible in the folded light curve. The photometric amplitude that we obtain, K1 = 85.8 km s−1, is ∼12 per cent less than the spectroscopic RV amplitude of 97.2 ± 2.0 km s−1. The discrepancy is due to the photometric contamination from a close object at about 5 arcsec north-west of KIC 6614501, which is difficult to remove. The atmospheric parameters of the sdB star, Teff = 23 700 ± 500 K and log g = 5.70 ± 0.10, imply that it is a rare object below the extreme horizontal branch (EHB), similar to HD 188112. The comparison with different evolutionary tracks suggests a mass between ∼0.18 and ∼0.25 M, too low to sustain core helium burning. If the mass was close to 0.18–0.19 M, the star could be already on the final He-core WD cooling track. A higher mass, up to ∼0.25 M, would be compatible with a He-core WD progenitor undergoing a cooling phase in a H-shell flash loop. A third possibility, with a mass between ∼0.32 and ∼0.40 M, cannot be excluded and would imply that the sdB is a ‘normal’ (but with an unusually low mass) EHB star burning He in its core. In all these different scenarios, the system is expected to merge in less than 3.1 Gyr due to gravitational wave radiation.