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Astron. Astrophys. 322, 807-816 (1997)

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The orbital period distribution of novae

Marcos P. Diaz 1 and Albert Bruch 2

1 Laboratório Nacional de Astrofísica LNA/CNPq, C.P. 21, 37500-000 Itajubá, Brazil
2 Astronomisches Institut, Wilhelm-Klemm-Str. 10, D-48149 Münster, Germany

Received 20 May 1996 / Accepted 2 December 1996


A detailed analysis of the orbital period distribution of classical novae is presented. The most important selection effects as well as the nova outburst frequency are evaluated as a function of the binary period in order to determine the intrinsic period distribution of nova progenitors in the galaxy. They cause it to be remarkably different from the observed distribution. The large majority of nova systems have short periods, whereas the observed distribution is much more uniform. A study of the sensitivity of the derived intrinsic distribution on the model parameters and on small number statistics is performed. A comparison of our results with previous work on CV population synthesis reveals a satisfactory overall agreement. Differences appear at very short periods where the population synthesis calculations predict even more systems than can be explained by the observations, and in particular concerning the period gap which does not exist for classical novae. In an appendix the correlation between the orbital period and the outburst amplitude of novae is discussed.

Key words: stars: binaries: close – stars: novae, cataclysmic variables

Send offprint requests to: M.P. Diaz

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997

Online publication: June 5, 1998