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The Outbursts of the Recurrent Nova T Coronae Borealis

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Ronald F. Webbink

Department of Astronomy, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801




For decades, the recurrent nova T Coronae Borealis (1866, 1946) has been regarded by astrophysicists as something of a freak among cataclysmic variable stars. Whereas none of the other 30-odd such systems with known binary periods have orbital periods longer thant 16h 25m (GK Persei), T CrB revolves in 227.5d.  All of the other systems contain low-luminosity main sequence stars, probably not much more massive than about a solar mass at most, losing mass to their companions; T CrB has a red giant of about 2.6 solar mass and luminosity more than a thousand suns in its place. All of the other well-known cataclysmic binaries apparently contain white dwarf companions to the main sequence stars, but the mass of the blue star in T CrB is apparently at least 1.9 solar mass, well above the theoretical upper limit to the masses of white dwarfs, 1.4 solar masses.


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