AAVSO: American Association of Variable Star Observers

The Denouement of the Galactic Novae (Abstract)

Volume 48 number 1 (2020)

Frederick M. Walter
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Stony Brook Univeristy, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3800; frederick.walter@stonybrook.edu


(Abstract only) AAVSO photometry of hundreds of galactic novae over the past century has added immeasurably to our understanding of the the nova mechanism—a thermonuclear runaway on the surface of a white dwarf star accreting from a binary companion. But in most cases we know little about the progenitor systems. Most galactic novae quickly fade back into that oblivion from which they came, nevermore to be observed. As they fade, astronomers, professionals and amateurs alike, often lose interest (and the ability to study the fading systems). I posit that many novae deserve to be be scrutinized far longer than is often the case. After the novae fade, the central source (a hot white dwarf plus an accretion disk) may be revealed. Long term monitoring reveals details of the break-up of the nova shell, and of the progenitor system. I will take examples from the Stony Brook/SMARTS nova program, which has followed over 100 novae spectroscopically and photometrically since 2003. I will stress how high quality amateur observations, both photometric and spectroscopic, can assist in elucidating the true nature of the galactic novae, where they came from, and how they get where they are going.