Binary orbits as the driver of γ-ray emission and mass ejection in classical novae

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DOIResolve DOI: http://doi.org/10.1038/nature13773
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TypeArticle
Journal titleNature
ISSN0028-0836
Volume514
Issue7522
Pages339342; # of pages: 4
Subjectastrophysics; explosion; velocity; wavelength; X-ray spectroscopy; acceleration; Article; gamma radiation; image analysis; motion; optical resolution; spectrum; synchrotron radiation; wind
AbstractClassical novae are the most common astrophysical thermonuclear explosions, occurring on the surfaces of white dwarf stars accreting gas from companions in binary star systems. Novae typically expel about 10-4 solarmasses of material at velocities exceeding 1,000 kilometres per second. However, the mechanism of mass ejection innovae is poorly understood, and could be dominated by the impulsive flash of thermonuclear energy, prolonged optically thick winds or binary interaction with the nova envelope. Classical novae are now routinely detected at gigaelectronvolt γ-ray wavelengths, suggesting that relativistic particles are accelerated by strong shocks in the ejecta. Here we report high-resolution radio imaging of the γ-rayemitting nova V959 Mon. We find that its ejecta were shaped by the motion of the binary system: some gas was expelled rapidly along the poles as a wind from the white dwarf, while denser material drifted out along the equatorial plane, propelled by orbital motion. At the interface between the equatorial and polar regions, we observe synchrotron emission indicative of shocks and relativistic particle acceleration, thereby pinpointing the location of γ-ray production. Binary shaping of the nova ejecta and associated internal shocks are expected to be widespread among novae, explaining why many novae are γ-ray emitters.
Publication date
LanguageEnglish
AffiliationNational Science Infrastructure; National Research Council Canada
Peer reviewedYes
NPARC number21272652
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Record identifier4fe775af-eaf9-49da-9e4b-371435b2b14a
Record created2014-12-03
Record modified2016-05-09
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