Fifteen Years of Nova Observations

Thursday, 15 June 2017 9 a.m. — 10 a.m. MST

AURA Lecture Hall

NOIRLab South Colloquia
FREDERICK M. WALTER (Stony Brook University and NOAO South Visiting Astronomer)

The SMARTS observatory has facilitated time domain studies of astrophysics for nearly 15 years, starting before the coming of the robotic surveys. The still-unique capabilities of the SMARTS facilities include simultaneous optical and near-IR photometry with Andicam, and the high resolution spectroscopic capabilities of the Chiron spectrograph. High cadence synoptic spectroscopy and photometry of over 80 novae starting in 2003 has not only provided invaluable insights into the evolution of the galactic novae, but has also raised unanticipated questions. I will demonstrate the importance of simultaneous optical and near-IR photometry by answering the question of when and how often dust forms in novae. High cadence (i.e., nightly) spectroscopy of slow dust-forming novae shows just how much we miss from classical scheduling, or from occasional observations of interesting objects.

Finally, any large sample will provide a few outliers that provide insights in the basic mechanisms of novae. I shall speculate about how everything is interconnected by demonstrating similarities between aspects of novae and gamma ray bursts, low mass pre-main sequence stars, and the persistent supersoft X-ray sources that may be progenitors of type Ia SNe.