A light curve analysis of classical novae: Free-free emission versus photospheric emission

Izumi Hachisu, Mariko Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


We analyzed light curves of seven relatively slower novae, PW Vul, V705 Cas, GQ Mus, RR Pic, V5558 Sgr, HR Del, and V723 Cas, based on an optically thick wind theory of nova outbursts. For fast novae, free-free emission dominates the spectrum in optical bands rather than photospheric emission, and nova optical light curves follow the universal decline law. Faster novae blow stronger winds with larger mass-loss rates. Because the brightness of free-free emission depends directly on the wind mass-loss rate, faster novae show brighter optical maxima. In slower novae, however, we must take into account photospheric emission because of their lower wind mass-loss rates. We calculated three model light curves of free-free emission, photospheric emission, and their sum for various white dwarf (WD) masses with various chemical compositions of their envelopes and fitted reasonably with observational data of optical, near-IR (NIR), and UV bands. From light curve fittings of the seven novae, we estimated their absolute magnitudes, distances, and WD masses. In PW Vul and V705 Cas, free-free emission still dominates the spectrum in the optical and NIR bands. In the very slow novae, RR Pic, V5558 Sgr, HR Del, and V723 Cas, photospheric emission dominates the spectrum rather than free-free emission, which makes a deviation from the universal decline law. We have confirmed that the absolute brightnesses of our model light curves are consistent with the distance moduli of four classical novae with known distances (GK Per, V603 Aql, RR Pic, and DQ Her). We also discussed the reason why the very slow novae are about ∼1 mag brighter than the proposed maximum magnitude versus rate of decline relation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number76
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 10
Externally publishedYes


  • novae, cataclysmic variables
  • stars: individual (GQ Mus, HR Del, PW Vul, V5558 Sgr, V705 Cas, V723 Cas)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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