Journal Article

On orbital period changes in nova outbursts

Rebecca G. Martin, Mario Livio and Bradley E. Schaefer

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 415, issue 2, pages 1907-1912
Published in print August 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online July 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.18835.x
On orbital period changes in nova outbursts

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We propose a new mechanism that produces an orbital period change during a nova outburst. When the ejected material carries away the specific angular momentum of the white dwarf, the orbital period increases. A magnetic field on the surface of the secondary star forces a fraction of the ejected material to corotate with the star, and hence the binary system. The ejected material thus takes angular momentum from the binary orbit and the orbital period decreases. We show that for sufficiently strong magnetic fields on the surface of the secondary star, the total change to the orbital period could even be negative during a nova outburst, contrary to previous expectations. Accurate determinations of pre- and post-outburst orbital periods of recurrent nova systems could test the new mechanism, in addition to providing meaningful constraints on otherwise difficult to measure physical quantities. We apply our mechanism to outbursts of the recurrent nova U Sco.

Keywords: stars: magnetic field; novae, cataclysmic variables

Journal Article.  3440 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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