The red nova-like variable in M31-A blue candidate in quiescence

Michael M. Shara, David Zurek, Dina Prialnik, Ofer Yaron, Attay Kovetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


M31-RV was an extraordinarily luminous (∼106 L ) eruptive variable, displaying very cool temperatures (roughly 1000 K) as it faded. While this object's peak luminosity matched or exceeded those of the brightest known classical novae, its red colors and cool spectra were very different from those of classical novae. The photometric behavior of M31-RV (and several other very red novae, i.e., luminous eruptive red variables) has led to several models of this apparently new class of astrophysical object. We list these models, which predict very red eruptions and very red remnants decades after the eruptions. One of the most detailed models is that of "mergebursts."Mergebursts are (hypothetical) mergers of close binary stars, predicted to rival or exceed the brightest classical novae in luminosity, but to be much cooler and redder than classical novae, and to become slowly hotter and bluer as they age. This prediction suggests two stringent and definitive tests of the mergeburst hypothesis. First, there should always be a cool red remnant, and NOT a hot blue remnant at the site of such an outburst. Second, the inflated envelope of a mergeburst event should be slowly contracting; hence, it must display a slowly rising effective temperature. We have searched the location ofM31-RV in multiple observatory archives. Our search revealed a luminous, UV-bright object within 0.″4 (1.5σof the astrometric position) of M31-RV in archival WFPC2 images taken 10 years after the outburst. Recent Hubble imagery, 20 years after the outburst, determines that this object is still hot and fading; it remains much too hot to be a mergeburst. Furthermore, the effective temperature of this object is declining, contrary to the prediction for mergebursts. If we have correctly identified M31-RV's remnant, it cannot be a mergeburst-but its behavior is consistent with theoretical nova models which erupt on a low-mass white dwarf. Future Hubble UV and visible images could determine if the M31-RV analogs (in M85 and in M99) are also much more blue than mergeburst theory predicts, and if they, too, are cooling in contradiction to mergeburst theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-830
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Dec 2010


  • Binaries:close
  • Cataclysmic variables
  • Galaxies:stellar content
  • Novae


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