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When does an old nova become a dwarf nova? Kinematics and age of the nova shell of the dwarf nova AT Cancri.

Shara, Michael M. and Drissen, Laurent and Martin, Thomas and Alarie, Alexandre and Stephenson, F. Richard (2017) 'When does an old nova become a dwarf nova? Kinematics and age of the nova shell of the dwarf nova AT Cancri.', Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society., 465 (1). pp. 739-745.


The Z Cam-type dwarf nova AT Cancri (AT Cnc) displays a classical nova (CN) shell, demonstrating that mass transfer in cataclysmic binaries decreases substantially after a CN eruption. The hibernation scenario of cataclysmic binaries predicts such a decrease, on a time-scale of a few centuries. In order to measure the time since AT Cnc's last CN eruption, we have measured the radial velocities of a hundred clumps in its ejecta with SITELLE, Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope's recently commissioned imaging Fourier transform spectrometer. These range from −455 to +490 km s−1. Coupled with the known distance to AT Cnc of 460 pc, the size of AT Cnc's shell, and a simple model of nova ejecta deceleration, we determine that the last CN eruption of this system occurred 330+135−90 330−90+135 yr ago. This is the most rapid transition from a high mass-transfer rate, nova-like variable to a low mass-transfer rate, dwarf nova yet measured, and in accord with the hibernation scenario of cataclysmic binaries. We conclude by noting the similarity in the deduced outburst date (within a century of 1686 CE) of AT Cnc to a ‘guest star’ reported in the constellation Cancer by Korean observers in 1645 CE.

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Publisher statement:This article has been accepted for publication in Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society ©: 2016 The Authors Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.
Date accepted:21 October 2016
Date deposited:25 July 2017
Date of first online publication:27 October 2016
Date first made open access:25 July 2017

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