A Hubble Space Telescope Survey for Novae in M87. III. Novae as Effective Standard Candles [SSA]


Ten weeks’ daily imaging of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 with the Hubble Space Telescope has yielded 41 nova light curves of unprecedented quality for extragalactic cataclysmic variables. We have recently used these light curves to demonstrate that the observational scatter in the so-called Maximum-Magnitude Rate of Decline (MMRD) relation for classical novae is so large as to render the nova-MMRD useless as a standard candle. Here we demonstrate that the Buscombe – de Vaucouleurs hypothesis, that all novae converge to nearly the same absolute magnitude about two weeks after maximum light, is strongly supported by our M87 nova data. For 24 novae in V-band (F606W filter) and I-band (F814W filter) light with daily-sampled light curves and well determined maxima, we find that the times of minimum scatter of nova absolute magnitude are, respectively, 17 and 20 days after maximum light. At those epochs novae display M_{V,17} = -6.06 +/- 0.23 and M_{I,20} = -6.11 +/- 0.34 . The distances of single novae in the Milky Way, sparse or elliptical galaxies, or free-floating in intergalactic space can be reasonably well-determined with the above calibrations.

Read this paper on arXiv…

M. Shara, T. Doyle, A. Pagnotta, et. al.
Fri, 24 Feb 17

Comments: 11 pages, 4 figures, submitted to the Astrophysical Journal